Bible Believers, et al. v. Wayne County, et al.

In American society, which is guided by Judeo-Christian principles, free speech and religious freedom are protected against censorship or punishment. Indeed, there is no room under the United States Constitution for a more restrictive view. Furthermore, government entities, including law enforcement agencies, have a constitutional duty not to effectuate a heckler’s veto, nor may they join a violent mob intent on suppressing speech. Instead, officials must take reasonable action to protect persons exercising their free speech rights.

In June 2012, during the International Arab Festival held in Dearborn, Michigan, a group of Christian evangelists were walking on the public sidewalks, holding signs quoting Scripture and wearing t-shirts with Christian messages, such as “Trust Jesus” and “Know the God of the Bible.” As a result, the Christians were viciously attacked by an angry mob of Muslims armed with stones, bottles, and debris. Many of the Christians were injured by the attack. Meanwhile, deputies from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office stood by and allowed the attacks to take place, and not one of the Muslims was arrested for brutally assaulting the Christians.

Bruised and bloodied by the attacks, Ruben Israel, the leader of the Christians, pleaded with a senior official from the sheriff’s office to intervene and enforce the law so that the Christians could continue their peaceful activity free from criminal interference. The law enforcement officers refused. Instead, they informed the Christians that they either must leave the area or they will be arrested for disorderly conduct.

Ruben Israel, bloodied on forehead by attackShortly after the attack, Ruben Israel contacted the American Freedom Law Center for help. As a result, AFLC filed a federal lawsuit against Wayne County and several officials from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office for egregiously breaching their constitutional duty when they refused to protect the Christians from the violent Muslim mob.

Unfortunately, the City of Dearborn, Michigan and now the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office are serial violators of the Constitution when it comes to defending the free speech rights of Christians who seek to evangelize Muslims or criticize Islam. Under sharia law, this is known as dhimmitude, which is the status that Islamic law mandates for non-Muslims, primarily Jews and Christians, that deprives them of equality of rights and seeks to subdue them under Islamic rule. Dearborn, Michigan is a city where the mayor and law enforcement have consistently violated Christians’ free speech rights in favor of appeasing the large Muslim population and where, in line with the Islamic legal dictates of sharia, the Christian Gospel is treated as criminally offensive speech. For this reason, violence “for the sake of Allah” is reinforced by arresting or removing Christians, as evidenced here by the actions of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office.

In short, the present case is an egregious example of the imposition of sharia by a hostile mob and law enforcement aiding and abetting the violence. As AFLC’s lawsuit argues, no citizen should be stoned in a city street in America for exercising his constitutional rights. And because law enforcement officers were present and made the conscious choice to allow the Muslim mob to silence the Christian speakers through violence, they effectuated a “heckler’s veto” — that is, the officers allowed the hecklers to veto the speech of the Christians, which is unconstitutional.

CASE UPDATE (February 19, 2013): AFLC filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, requesting that the court prevent the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office from restricting the Bible Believers’ right to engage in religious speech on the public sidewalks and other public areas during the 2013 Arab Festival to be held in Dearborn, Michigan.

CASE UPDATE (March 24, 2013): AFLC filed its reply to Wayne County’s opposition to AFLC’s motion for a preliminary injunction, arguing that the Defendants’ opposition is a feckless attempt to avoid the inevitable conclusion that Wayne County’s threat to arrest the Christian evangelists for engaging in constitutionally protected speech activity in response to a hostile crowd’s reaction violates the First Amendment. Therefore, the Christians’ protected speech cannot be criminally punished or banned as a matter of law.

CASE UPDATE (March 25, 2013): AFLC filed its notice of objections to the defendant’s exhibit — a video shot by the American Arab Chamber of Commerece (AACC) — that was filed in support of its reply brief. The video exhibit is objectionable because (1) it contains editorial comments that are inadmissible hearsay (2 Fed. R. Evid. 801 & 802) and (2) Fay Beydoun, the “custodian of records” for the AACC, does not set forth any facts in her affidavit to establish that she has personal knowledge to authenticate the video. (Fed. R. Evid. 901 (requiring authentication)).

CASE UPDATE (May 7, 2013): On May 7, 2013, AFLC Senior Counsel Robert Muise presented oral argument in support of AFLC’s motion for  preliminary injunction before Federal Judge Patrick J. Duggan in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

CASE UPDATE: (May 14, 2013): AFLC filed a notice of appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit after a lower court judge dismissed the case.

CASE UPDATE: (July 5, 2013):  AFLC filed its opening brief in the Sixth Circuit.

CASE UPDATE (August 28, 2013): AFLC filed its reply brief in the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

CASE UPDATE (January 21, 2014): AFLC Senior Counsel Robert Muise presented oral argument before a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit.

CASE UPDATE (August 27, 2014): Divided panel of the Sixth Circuit affirms decision below.  Circuit Judge Clay issues scathing dissent.

CASE UPDATE (September 8, 2014): AFLC filed a petition for rehearing en banc.

CASE UPDATE (September 9, 2014): Sixth Circuit requested that Wayne County respond to AFLC’s petition for rehearing en banc.

CASE UPDATE (October 23, 2014): Sixth Circuit grants en banc (full court) review.  Hearing scheduled for March 4, 2015.

CASE UPDATE (November 24, 2014): AFLC filed its supplemental brief for the en banc hearing.

CASE UPDATE (February 5, 2015): AFLC filed its supplemental reply brief.

CASE UPDATE (March 4, 2015): AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel Robert J. Muise presented oral argument before the en banc (full) U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (15 federal judges).

CASE UPDATE (October 28, 2015): Sixth Circuit, sitting en banc, rules in favor of Bible Believers on all issues.  Complete victory for the First Amendment.  Wayne County paid AFLC $197,500 in attorneys’ fees.  Case closed.