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: