Sometimes I wonder if “Christians” come across like this to Muslims.
(Image Credit: Seth Hahne)
How tragic! How sad! How shameful!
In the ongoing drama of who was legally right and who was legally wrong at the Arab American Festival in Dearborn, Michigan last year, a Federal Judge has made a ruling. Check out the title and wording of this report below from The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) – the lawyers defending the “Bible Believers” (a group I was highly critical of in my blog posts of June 2012 because of what I deemed to be a very poor representation of Jesus):
Michigan Federal Judge Allows Muslim Violence to Suppress Christian Speech; Immediate Appeal Filed
A Michigan federal judge today dismissed a civil rights lawsuit brought by several Christian evangelists who were violently assaulted by a hostile Muslim mob while preaching at an Arab festival last year in Dearborn, Michigan, which has the largest Muslim population in the United States. Video of the Muslim assault went viral on YouTube (my note: over 1.3 million views of the video below made by “United West”).
The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) filed the lawsuit against Wayne County, the Wayne County Sheriff, and two Wayne County Deputy Chiefs for refusing to protect the Christians from the attack and threatening to arrest the Christians for disorderly conduct if they did not halt their speech activity and immediately leave the festival area.
Judge Patrick J. Duggan, sitting in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, granted Wayne County’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing the lawsuit. The judge also denied AFLC’s motion requesting that the court issue an order preventing the Wayne County Sheriff and his deputies from restricting the Christian evangelists from displaying their banners and signs on the public sidewalks outside of this year’s Arab Festival, which will be held in June.
Robert Muise, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, commented: “The First Amendment was dealt a severe blow today as a result of this ruling. Indeed, this ruling effectively empowers Muslims to silence Christian speech that they deem offensive by engaging in violence. And pursuant to this ruling, the Christian speakers are now subject to arrest for engaging in disorderly conduct on account of the Muslim hecklers’ violent response to their speech. In short, this ruling turns the First Amendment on its head.”
David Yerushalmi, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, added: “This fight for our fundamental right to freedom of speech does not stop here. We have filed an immediate appeal of this ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. While Judge Duggan may have been the first judge to rule on this issue, he won’t be the last. Indeed, we are prepared to take this case to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary because it is imperative that our free speech rights not be subject to mob rule. This is the United States, not Benghazi.”
Here is a response I gave to this report from the AFLC on several websites:
While I truly appreciate the efforts of many to protect the First Amendment and other civil rights, I don’t think your interpretation of events or the United West YouTube video tells the whole story of what happened at the Arab Festival last year. Have you taken the time to examine the inflammatory words and actions of the “Bible Believers” which I believe incited the violence against them (violence, by the way, that I don’t condone)?
You need to see this video below and listen to the horrible speech and terribly disturbing tone of the “Bible Believers” to the Muslim teenagers:
“One day you’re going to go straight to hell, you little dirtbags.”
“You wicked heathen. Oh yeah, God’s going to put you straight in the fires of hell.”
“You wicked, sick, sick sinners.”
“Little sinners. Wicked dogs you are.”
“Bunch of sick animals.”
(What “Bible” do these “Bible Believers” “believe” in anyway?!)
And what about this video below where Ruben Israel of the “Bible Believers” explains to a police officer that they have a pig head on a pole for protection because Muslims are “petrified” of pigs and so it “keeps them at bay”? Unbelievable. Really. Just unbelievable. They had to know that pig’s head was extremely offensive to Muslims and would create an immediate, visceral, strongly negative reaction.
In my opinion, the words of these “Christian evangelists” did not represent Jesus or his Gospel (“Good News”) at all. They certainly have constitutional rights to freedom of speech and religious expression but Jesus never gave them the freedom or right to fill the air – or their signs and banners – with words of this kind of hatred for Muslims (or anyone else). That’s “Bad News,” not “Good News.” It just creates conflict – the kind of conflict that took place at the festival last summer.
Maybe. . .just maybe. . .the “Bible Believers” were legally right in their actions and words that day in Dearborn. But I believe they were certainly not morally right in their actions and words.
It is not morally right to intentionally provoke someone to violence. It is not morally right to purposely incite someone to nearly start a riot and then:
a) cry about being persecuted for Jesus’ sake,
b) put out videos with misleading, sensationalistic titles on YouTube,
c) file a lawsuit about your “right” to engage in this kind of behavior – behavior so unlike Jesus!
Don’t get me wrong. Our freedoms and rights are incredibly important to me as an American citizen. Many have paid a great price – even the ultimate price – for us to have these precious rights. And. . .I think the rights of these so-called “Bible Believers” were probably violated. It seems – and I wasn’t there that day (I came to the festival the next day) – that the police may not have done enough to protect them from being “stoned” with water bottles by the angry Muslim teenagers.
Nevertheless, I find many of the words and actions of the “Bible Believers” to be despicable. Reprehensible. I call on them to repent. I call on them to plead with God for forgiveness and to ask Him for His heart for Muslim people – and all people. I implore them to share the “Good News” of Jesus’ love, not the “Bad News” of their hatred.
And I am appealing to all of us to value and hold dear something even greater than constitutional rights – as vital as they are. What is it? Love. God’s love. The kind of love Jesus spoke about and exemplified to the very end of his life:
Jesus: “love your neighbor.”
Jesus: “love your enemies.”
Jesus: “blessed are the peacemakers.”
Jesus: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
These words come from the “Bible” I “believe” in.
May there be real peace and genuine love for one another in Dearborn this summer.
Please check out two of my earlier blog posts – made in June of 2012 just after the events in question – to read more about my take on the behavior and words of the “Bible Believers” at the Arab Festival:
Mark, I would agree with you it was offensive and outside the scope of what Jesus would have done. After listening I was offended by the tone of these individuals. There is nothing in the Word of God that would condone their actions. I did not see any Bible in what they did.
I would hope that Muslims that know other Christians would consider the source and not throw all of us in the same bucket that these individuals come from.
Joe, thanks so much for reading!
I was thinking about the riot in the Book of Acts in the Bible (Acts 19:23-41). The Ephesians were finally quieted by an Ephesian city official who said this about Paul and his men:
“. . .you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess” (verses 36-37). Another translation says of Paul and his traveling companions that they “have not spoken against our goddess.”
It seems that Paul preached the Good News of Jesus in Ephesus without unnecessarily condemning the religion of the people there.
Did he disagree with the prevailing religion in Ephesus? Absolutely. But apparently his words and actions were very unlike those of the “Bible Believers” last summer in Dearborn. Even an Ephesian city official defended him as he stopped the riot.
As followers of Jesus, we can express differences between our beliefs and our Muslim friends. We should express our differences. We are talking about matters of eternity. But the way we do it must reflect Jesus and his love.
There is no excuse for physical violence in response to speech or signs that one might disagree with. These people came to Dearborn because of how the police dealt with other groups before them. They came to show everyone on the Internet how Dearborn restricts the rights of any who would oppose Islam. And knowing how they would be received and how the police wouldn’t protect them, they brought cameras to document that fact.
At earlier festivals, other evangelists came to hold peaceful discussions and pass out tracts to any who would accept them. The security at the Festival lied to police, had them arrested, they were denied the opportunity to return to the festival, and years later were found innocent at their trial only because they had videotaped all their activities. The City of Dearborn had posted a very negative and false description of their activities on the Internet. The court ruled that the arrest was wrong, the City had to pay a settlement, and they have to post an apology on their website for 3 years.
In this country, Neo-Nazi’s and the KKK march through Jewish and Black neighborhoods with police protection. I don’t support their hateful messages, but I support their right to express them. But in Dearborn, police prohibit peaceful demonstrations on public property. They set up “free speech zones” in isolated areas and cordon off the area and prevent interaction with the public. They arrested Pastor Jones for requesting to hold a rally, allowed BAMN to physically assault him, and do nothing to prevent people from interfering with his ability to walk down a public sidewalk. At a minimum, the kids who were throwing concrete and milk crates should have been detained until they could be released to their parents custody. That the police did nothing sends a message to these kids that their response was condoned by the authorities.
They have cancelled this year’s Arab Fest. The City of Dearborn needs to educate its citizens about the rights of free speech, to inform residents that physical assault in response to the verbal expression of an idea, however unpopular, is a crime and will be prosecuted. And we all need to work together to have a festival in Dearborn that welcomes persons of all faiths.
Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. I really appreciate your sense of patriotism – your love of our country and the rights so many have given their lives for.
My issue – as I hope you were able to see – is not that the Dearborn police handled everything properly. I am not defending them or the city of Dearborn. I am certainly not defending the teenagers who threw dangerous objects at the “Bible Believers.” Their behavior was just plain wrong and they should have been held accountable.
Having said this, I am trying to look at this whole situation from the standpoint of how true followers of Jesus should behave. The Bible is clear that people who call themselves “Christians” or “Bible Believers” should behave in certain ways:
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle. . .” (Ephesians 4:1-2)
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Did you watch the video I put on this post? The one where the “Bible Believer” is screaming at the Muslim teenagers? Is that the way a follower of Jesus should act? No! A thousand times no! I for one am ashamed of their behavior and don’t want to be associated with them.
What is the ultimate purpose for any true follower of Jesus? To live as becoming a child of God and share His Good News with the world in ways that express His love.
The wrongful behavior of the Muslim teens should not obscure the wrongful behavior of the “Bible Believers.”
I can’t judge the motives of the “Bible Believers” but it seems like they went to Dearborn last summer to pick a fight and prove a point.
Human rights are not more important than human souls.
Patriotism is not more important than evangelism.
I care about civil rights.
I care more about the Good News which is able to save every person – “Muslim” or “Christian.”
Thank you for taking the time to follow up on this. I was at the event (I am wearing a bright orange t-shirt and holding a video camera in the video posted above) and can confirm that what you say is correct.
Ruben Israel and his people did not act in any sort of Christian love at this event. By comparison, there were other Christians there engaging Muslims in meaningful dialogue who did NOT get things thrown at them.
As to whether or not the police did all they could to protect free speech, that is perhaps questionable. They did take away several Arab youth for throwing things, and kicked some of them out of the festival. I don’t know if any charges were ever brought – but for the Christians to say that the police did nothing to protect them is simply not true. The real video (not take by Mr. Israel’s people) show’s this and was likely the evidence the judge used to throw the case out.
BTW, about 90% of the things thrown were empty plastic water bottles – yes there was at least one piece of concrete and a couple of milk crates – but to call this a “stoning” is also far from the truth.
Jerrid, I thank you so much for responding to my blog post.
Thank you for showing an interest in getting out the truth of what happened. It is important to hear from someone who was there as an eyewitness so that false reporting can be more easily exposed. Love and truth are such important and inseparable goals of what I am trying to accomplish through this blog:
“. . .we will speak the truth in love. . .” (Ephesians 4:15)
By the way, how did you find my blog? Whatever the reason, please come back and respond to any post any time.
I started far away from this post, only getting here through many rabbit holes, but so very glad I kept going. In my years, I am learning that there are many sides to men’s truths, but only one side to God’s truth.