City of Dearborn Apologizes for Arresting Christians at 2010 Arab Festival; Settlement Reached in Lawsuit

Detroit, Michigan (May 6, 2013) — After more than two years of intense motion practice and discovery, the City of Dearborn has agreed to enter into a settlement that includes a public apology for arresting several Christian missionaries who were peacefully preaching to Muslims at the Dearborn Arab International Festival in 2010.  The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC), a national nonprofit Judeo-Christian law firm, is representing Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, David Wood, and Paul Rezkalla, who were thrown in jail on June 18, 2010, and charged with “breach of the peace” for their free speech activity. 

In September 2010, Robert Muise, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, represented the Christians during a five-day criminal trial.  At the end of the trial, the Christians were acquitted by a unanimous jury verdict.  Following the acquittals, fellow AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel David Yerushalmi and Muise filed a 100-page, civil rights lawsuit against the City, its mayor, John B. O’Reilly, its chief of police, Ronald Haddad, 17 City police officers, and two executives from the American Arab Chamber of Commerce on behalf Qureshi, Wood, and Rezkalla.  The lawsuit was later amended to add the Arab Chamber as a defendant.  The civil rights complaint alleged that the Christians’ constitutional rights were egregiously violated during the Arab festival.

Just this past week, the City agreed to enter into a settlement, which includes a public apology that will be posted on the City’s website for three years; the removal from the City’s website of a press release and letter from the mayor that contained derogatory comments about the Christians; and a payment to the Christians, the amount of which is confidential.  The legal claims against the Arab Chamber defendants will proceed.

The City’s public apology states as follows:

On June 18, 2010, David Wood, Nabeel Qureshi (co-founders of Acts 17 Apologetics) and Paul Rezkalla were arrested by Dearborn police officers at the Dearborn Arab International Festival (“Arab Festival”), while they were engaging in a peaceful dialogue about their Christian faith with several festival attendees.  Wood, Qureshi, and Rezkalla were subsequently charged with breach of peace, a misdemeanor offense.

The decision to arrest these individuals was based in part on information provided to the Dearborn police by Arab Festival attendees, workers, and volunteers.  When all of the information—including the video captured by Wood, Qureshi, and Rezkalla—was presented to a Dearborn jury, the jury found that these individuals were not guilty of the criminal offense of breach of peace.

The City of Dearborn regrets and apologizes for the decisions to arrest and prosecute David Wood, Nabeel Qureshi, and Paul Rezkalla and the hardship caused to everyone involved.

Through this apology and its acceptance by David Wood, Nabeel Qureshi, and Paul Rezkalla, the parties seek to build a bridge and to confirm to the community that members of all faiths are welcome in Dearborn to peacefully share their views and to engage in religious discussions.

Muise commented, “For too long our clients have been vilified for simply exercising their constitutional right to evangelize on a public street during the Arab Festival.  And despite their acquittal, they continued to be treated as if they had committed a crime.  With this settlement and apology, our clients have been vindicated and this dispute with the City will finally be put to rest.”

Yerushalmi added, “While the dispute with the City is over, there is still unfinished business with the Arab Chamber.  As the City itself noted in its apology, Arab Festival volunteers and workers, who were acting under the guidance and direction of the Arab Chamber and its executive director, Fay Beydoun, and pursuant to the Chamber’s festival ‘rules and regulations,’ are similarly responsible for the violation of our clients’ rights, and we intend to hold them accountable.”