Acts 17 v. City of Dearborn

A ninety-six page civil rights lawsuit was filed against the City of Dearborn, 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 of Acts 17 Apologetics, Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, David Wood, Paul Rezkalla, and Josh Hogg—Christian missionaries whose constitutional rights were egregiously violated during the 2010 Arab International Festival held in Dearborn, Michigan, the home of the largest Muslim population in the United States.  [A copy of the complaint is available here and provided below.]

Under sharia law, which is Islamic law, it is a crime to preach the Gospel to Muslims.  On Friday, June 18, 2010, four of the Christian missionaries, Qureshi, Wood, Rezkalla, and Negeen Mayel, were detained and handcuffed, had their personal property seized, and were thrown in jail by City police officers for peacefully preaching to Muslims at the Arab festival.  Watch the shocking video of the arrest of Qureshi:

Muise Representing Christians at Trial

The four Christians were arrested on the first day of the three-day Arab Festival.  The City charged them with breaching the peace and ordered them to stand trial.  Following a five-day criminal trial in September 2010, all four were acquitted by a unanimous jury verdict.  The Christians were represented by AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel Robert Muise.

Christians handing out Gospel of John

On Sunday, June 20, 2010, Wood, Rezkalla, and Hogg returned to the public streets of Dearborn.  They stood on the public sidewalks outside of the barricades that marked the area where the actual Arab Festival activities were taking place.  The Christians did not want to risk being falsely arrested again by the police.  Wood had a small, handheld camera, while Rezkalla and Hogg stood on the public sidewalk outside the barricades, handing out copies of the Gospel of John to passersby who were willing to take them.   

The Christians were there for approximately 5 minutes when eight City police officers descended upon them, seized Wood’s camera, detained the Christians, and brought them to the police command trailer located inside the festival where the Christians were photographed, admonished, and ordered to cease their peaceful religious activity.  Watch the shocking video of this unconstitutional seizure.

While Christians were prohibited from distributing copies of the Gospel outside of the festival, Arab Festival organizers permitted others to distribute anti-Israel materials within it.  A prime example is the anti-Israel shirts that were sold by a pro-Palestine organization in a booth at the festival.

Anti-Israel t-shirts sold at Arab Festival

AFLC Senior Counsel David Yerushalmi commented, “This case is a stunning example of the pernicious influence of stealth jihad and sharia law in America.  It is no small coincidence that these Christians were treated so harshly in a city that has the largest Muslim population in the United States.  AFLC is committed to stopping this attack on our Constitution.”

UPDATE (February 7, 2012): U.S. District Court Judge denies City’s motion to dismiss, holding that the probable cause ruling by the state court judge in the  underlying criminal proceedings did not preclude Plaintiffs’ civil rights claims.  The case proceeds.  Read decision here.

UPDATE (February 20, 2012): AFLC filed a 98-page amended complaint in the U.S. District Court, naming 7 additional police officers as defendants.  The names of the officers were not known at the time of the initial filing.  However, they were identified during the course of discovery.  You can read the amended complaint here.

UPDATE (November 27, 2012): AFLC filed an amended complaint in the U.S. District Court, naming the the American Arab Chamber of Commerce as an additional defendant.   You can read the amended complaint here.  The amended complaint and the 17 exhibits filed with it are available below.

UPDATE (May 3, 2013): The City of Dearborn agreed to enter into a settlement that includes a public apology for arresting the Christian missionaries who were peacefully preaching to Muslims at the Dearborn Arab International Festival in 2010 and to pay $300,000.