Sunday, June 20, 2010

Victory To Distribute The Message

Christian pastor allowed to distribute literature at Arab festival in Dearborn
By Niraj Warikoo

A Christian pastor is free to distribute literature on the streets at the Arab-American festival this weekend in Dearborn, a federal court has ruled.

A three-judge panel on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency motion that allows Pastor George Saieg, a Christian minister from California, to hand out literature aimed at converting Muslims on the perimeter of the three-day festival that starts tonight.

The court’s ruling on Thursday overturns, for now, a June 7th decision by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Borman that supported the city of Dearborn’s policy, which maintained that Saieg and anyone else must only hand out literature around their booths because of crowd control concerns. The festival is one of the largest Arab-American gatherings in the U.S. and organizers have safety concerns. And so such rules are needed and apply to every one, organizers said. There are other Christian groups that hand out literature from booths at the festival, as do other religious and ethnic groups, they note.

But Saieg wanted to hand out literature in other parts of the festival as well.

The court’s decision is the latest in ongoing tensions between some Christian missionary groups and some Arab Americans. One Christian group said they were bothered last year at the festival by security. And some Arab-Americans say they are harassed by some of the missionary groups.

“This is a victory for the First Amendment and the free speech rights of Christians,” said Robert Muise, an attorney for the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center, which filed suit on behalf of the Christian pastor.

The center announced today the court’s ruling in a press release.