DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — A federal appeals court says there was no First Amendment violation when police threatened to ticket Christian evangelists unless they left an Arab-American street festival in Dearborn, Michigan, in 2012.
Members of a group called Bible Believers were pelted with water bottles and rocks after they denounced Islam and called Muhammad a false prophet.
The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that in moving against the evangelists, sheriff’s officers were trying to maintain order, not regulate public speech.
The dissenting judge said that while the preaching was offensive, police should have tried “to control the lawlessness” of the crowd instead of stifling free speech.
The annual fair, held from 1995 to 2012, led to regular clashes between Christians and Dearborn’s large Arab and Muslim population. Lawsuits challenging efforts to restrict access mostly have ended in favor of evangelists. Dearborn paid $300,000 and apologized after missionaries were arrested in 2010.