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Mayor of Dearborn: Anti-Muslim motives unconstitutional

Tomorrow, July 12, the four missionaries arrested in Dearborn for having a conversation on a public street with people who approached them to discuss Christianity will be arraigned for breach of the peace. Tonight, according to ABC News, they are going back to the scene of their arrest, where there presently is no Arab festival going on, and have invited those who want to discuss Christianity to meet them there. I hope they won't get either beaten up or arrested. I also hope they have streamed video that can't be confiscated by the police, as their other video has been.

I encourage readers to watch the ABC segment here.

Notable features:

--The reporter says that the mayor said that there was at the festival a "free speech zone" but that the missionaries weren't in it! What??? Just because an "Arab festival" is going on does not mean that conversations about Christianity can be confined to a "free speech zone." There's a "free speech zone." It's called the United States of America. This, and the reporter's mention of it as though such a thing is unremarkable, is terrifying. Oh, by the way: I'm indebted to a commentator for this link to a U.S. Supreme Court opinion in the Heffron case that said that on fairgrounds (which the Arab Festival wasn't, but waive that) people can be restricted to passing out literature at booths. Liberals have been trotting this SCOTUS opinion out ever since the arrests, sometimes ignoring the fact that these missionaries weren't passing literature when the arrest took place. But beyond that, guess what? This same opinion expressly protects the right to "mingle with the crowd" and "orally propagate their views"! See for yourself. It's in paragraph 655.

--The mayor, at 35 seconds into the ABC segment, characterizes the motives of the Christians as stirring "emotions against Muslims." How he divines this is something of a mystery. But what's especially striking is that then, at 2 minutes into the segment, he claims that such a motive "violates the spirit of the Constitution." Think about that for just a moment. In other words, if your motives in doing something are ostensibly anti-Muslim, even if what you are actually doing is otherwise perfectly legal, you are somehow violating the "spirit" of the Constitution (perhaps he should have started talking about "penumbras"). I assume this means you can be arrested. Next stop: Arresting people for eating pork in "Muslim areas," walking dogs--you know, anything that is done with an anti-Muslim motive.

--The mayor is so clueless that he thinks all four missionaries were cited for refusing to obey an officer's order. This isn't true. Only the young lady, Nageen, was so cited, apparently because she didn't immediately and tamely give up her video camera. The mayor then spins out this confused claim that they were all cited for refusal to obey an officer's orders into a completely made-up claim (which the missionaries say the confiscated video would refute) that the police told them to "break it up" and that they refused. I don't know where the mayor is getting this. Maybe he just makes it up out of his head. He seems like that kind of "make it up as you go along even if you have no idea what you are talking about" guy. Maybe the police told him that. It will be interesting to see what happens in court, seeing as videotape that the missionaries claim is exculpatory continues to be MIA.

--The reporter says that the missionaries were involved in a "disturbance" at last year's festival. Don't you love that way of describing it, without any clarification? As though maybe the missionaries were rioting or something. Here's that "disturbance" that they were "involved in."

Bonus: I was going to blog this separately but didn't get to do so before the ABC report came up. See the video here to learn of the unnerving harassment Nageen was given by the male Dearborn police after she was arrested. Nothing actually violent, but some words (and a demand to take off an overshirt in front of them) clearly intended to frighten her as a powerless female at the police station. You have to watch most of the video to get to that part of what David Wood is saying.

Comments (20)

"There's a "free speech zone." It's called the United States of America."

No, there isn't. There are places and conditions in which there is broad freedom of expression and there are broad restrictions on what state power can do in the way of limiting limiting free expression, but, with exceptions, the First Amendment right of expression ends at your doorstep (or mine).

The mayor, I believe, is wrong as a "buffer zone" isn't a "free speech zone" as I understand a FSZ. In the latter, demonstrators are restricted to a discrete area, usually under the guise of some security issue while broad swaths of otherwise public areas are shut down.. On the other hand, our Christian friends would have been able to hand out literature in most public areas of the city except for the area delimited by the permit. Folks, of course, have the right to freely circulate and talk to others as long as they don't engage in activities that impede the flow of traffic.

The MSM is simply lame too much of the time.

Local police are too often thuggish and elected officials moronic and clueless. Madison explained all this long ago. This is, of course, the opposite of "penumbras" as the term is used constitutionally, it being a way of having due process carry the weight of privileges and immunities.

al, you and Lydia both dramatically overstate your cases. You're simply mistaken that the First Amendment's guarantee to the protection of speech ends at a person's doorstep, if by that you mean that the government can place whatever arbitrary limits on speech it likes in public spaces. The federal courts have affirmed again and again and again that whatever restrictions on speech are instituted must be limited to things like "reasonable time and manner" (i.e., 130 decibel speakers at 3:00 AM in a residential neighborhood). So while it's not true that the every inch of the United States enjoys identical First Amendment protections at all times, it's also grossly false to state that the First Amendment only applies behind closed doors. If the First Amendment literally does not apply in any meaningful way to public spaces, then most Constitutional jurisprudence on the subject has been wildly mistaken and the First Amendment does nothing like what every American (including every current Supreme Court justice) thinks it does.

More importantly than anything else, the courts have repeatedly stated that restrictions on speech must be content neutral, which it most certainly was not in this case--the issue is precisely that the "free speech zone" was a content-based cordon which stated that non-Muslim religious speech was prohibited by the state within a particular, rather large area. This was not a restriction on organized protest as such, nor on religious expression as such. It was a prohibition intended to prevent Muslims coming into contact with non-Muslim religious speech in a public space, and that's clearly unconstitutional.

Sage, I think you come at my point from the wrong side of the door :).

Hmmm. It must be that I simply miss your point, and am coming through the door that seems best to come at what I imagine your point to be. Very confusing...

Al, you are misinformed on the matter of what is meant by the "free speech zone." I'll get to that in a moment.

I also don't understand why you keep bringing up the literature issue. Let me say this one more time: These four people were not passing out literature when they were arrested and taken away to spend a night in jail. They were not trying to pass out literature. They were not thinking of passing out literature. They had no intention of passing out literature. They were standing around talking to people who approached them on a public street and videotaping the conversations. That's _it_. I realize that some blogs have been confusing on this because the next day they were indeed prohibited from passing out literature in the "buffer zone" around the festival, but they were not actually arrested at that time. The arrest had already taken place previously, and the arrest was not for passing out literature. Can we please keep that clear?

Now, on the "free speech zone." The mayor is not trying to refer to the buffer zone. (Why would he? They evidently wanted the "buffer zone" to be treated the same as the bulk of the festival area anyway.) To understand the "free speech zone" comment fully, you have to go back to last year. If you look at the video from last year that I've linked in the main post, you will see that one of the people chasing them out of the festival refers to a certain intersection as "your preaching place." You see, the Muslims insist that all Christians not only restrict literature passing to booths but also (contra Heffron) get a booth and stick to it in order even to converse with Muslims at the festival about Christianity. Got that? Understand that? What the mayor means by a "free speech zone" is, as Sage indicates, a highly limited area for Christians to talk to Muslims within the overall festival area. This has no basis in, and indeed is contrary to, previous free speech jurisprudence.

What was the pupose in commanding the girl to take off her shirt? Wood is correct that they wouldn't have done that to a Muslim girl. Can the officers be sued, fired, whipped in the public square? Do the officers have last names like Haddad? Or is it that in Dearborn contempt for Christians is just SOP? Is there any outrage emanating from the non-Muslim portion of Dearborn? Do they care what's happening to their city, and that it could set the model for others down the road?

Maybe those Christians need to apply for a permit to march through Muslim neighborhoods carrying banners praising the Prince of Peace and decrying the false prohet. Maybe then, like the Nazis in Skokie, they'd get some respect.

I'm betting most of the non-Muslim population of Dearborn is hunkering down and hoping not to be noticed. But that's just a guess. Okay, it's a little more than that: I've been told that it was local (i.e., Dearborn area) Christian groups who were unhappy about the video that was made last year and who didn't want them to press charges last year. Might upset the local work with Muslims, etc. You get the picture.

They might get a permit to march. But they want to be allowed to have personal conversations. That's the part the Muslims can't allow, at least not during "their" festival. (I hope we hear what happens tonight, when there's no festival going on at Warren Avenue.)

You may have noticed a Muslim commentator on my last post on this subject: He argued that the missionaries deserved what they got because other missionaries in Dearborn recently have been (I know this will shock you) telling Muslim children about Christianity and passing out Christian materials and DVDs to them. "Children" here, of course, could mean anything, including teens. We wouldn't want any more Rifqa Bary conversions.

The purpose of making the girl take her shirt off? Nothing legitimate, that's for sure. If it were merely a routine search or something of that kind, they would presumably have sent her somewhere in private with a female officer.

I don't mean to hijack, but I'd be interested in hearing what contributors here think of Martha Nussbaum's article on burqa bans in the Times today:

Bonus: I was going to blog this separately but didn't get to do so before the ABC report came up. See the video here to learn of the unnerving harassment Nageen was given by the male Dearborn police after she was arrested. Nothing actually violent, but some words (and a demand to take off an overshirt in front of them) clearly intended to frighten her as a powerless female at the police station.

And you wonder why I post comments like the ones I did in your last thread on the rule of law...

Thugs on the street, thugs in uniforms. Thugs in robes, thugs in the DAs office. What is the citizenry to do when the law protects them?

Eh, Lydia. See the quote in this here link.

Okay. But that's OT for this thread.

the issue is precisely that the "free speech zone" was a content-based cordon which stated that non-Muslim religious speech was prohibited by the state within a particular, rather large area.

Well, it looks like Sts. Peter and John had the same problem. They, basically, ignored the law and suffered the consequences. That's what it takes to convert a country. Yes, I am saying that the Dearborn administration seems to be acting exactly like the pharisees.

Bishop Fulton Sheen, in 1931, wrote an article on tolerance (called, A Plea for Intolerance) that the mayor should read:

America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance—it is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded. . . . Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience toward evil, a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment. Tolerance applies only to persons, never to truth. Tolerance applies to the erring, intolerance to the error. . . . Architects are as intolerant about sand as foundations for skyscrapers as doctors are intolerant about germs in the laboratory. Tolerance does not apply to truth or principles. About these things we must be intolerant, and for this kind of intolerance, so much needed to rouse us from sentimental gush, I make a plea. Intolerance of this kind is the foundation of all stability.

He also wrote:

Christian love bears evil, but it does not tolerate it.
It does penance for the sins of others, but it is not broadminded about sin.
The cry for tolerance never induces it to quench its hatred of the evil philosophies that have entered into contest with the Truth.
It forgives the sinner, and it hates the sin; it is unmerciful to the error in his mind.
The sinner it will always take back into the bosom of the Mystical Body;
but his lie will never be taken into the treasury of His Wisdom.
Real love involves real hatred:
whoever has lost the power of moral indignation and the urge to drive the buyers and sellers from the temples
has also lost a living, fervent love of Truth.
Charity, then, is not a mild philosophy of "live and let live";
it is not a species of sloppy sentiment.
Charity is the infusion of the Spirit of God,
which makes us love the beautiful and hate the morally ugly.

One wonders if the mayor would understand that the whole concept of a free speech zone is a slap in the face to the truth. He will one day face The Truth. He will have to give an answer for his actions. It may be illegal to play 130 dB sound at 3:00am in the morning - unless it is a siren and a tornado is coming. Even worse would be the arrival of an asteroid. If these extinction level events that merely kill the body should be pronounced form the housetop, how much the events that will kill the soul. Laws of this sort must be called immoral and ignored. If the police want to argue, tell them to take up the matter with God. It is he who has overuled them.

The Chicken

Should read:

If these extinction-level events that merely kill the body should be pronounced from the housetop, how much more the events that will kill the soul.

The Chicken

You're simply mistaken that the First Amendment's guarantee to the protection of speech ends at a person's doorstep

I think that Al meant the opposite of how you interpreted him.

Free speech is allowed in public places, generally. On private property, the owner can restrict it. Therefore, "ends at a person's doorstep" means free speech stops when you enter a person's home or private property. At least that is how I took his comment.

c matt, thanks for the clarification. I can see it now, but al's was an odd locution.

but al's was an odd locution.

You'll get used to it.

Yes, I was just pointing it out to you. I didn’t know where else to reach you, mostly because I am an Internet hermit.

I didn’t know where else to reach you

All of our author pages contain email links and you may always exercise the option to email the editor of the website.

Bush the younger was quite a fan of Free Speech Zones.

Those with anti-Bush signs were deposited in the Free Speech Zones and reporters were often barred by local officials from showing the protesters on camera or speaking to them within the zone.

Free Speech Zones were used in Boston at the 2004 Dem National Convention and also in 2004 in NY at the GOP convention.

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