Four Christians arrested outside Arab festival

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DEARBORN, Mich. — Four Christians were arrested for disorderly conduct outside the Dearborn Arab International Festival while handing out copies of the Gospel of John in English and Arabic.

Arrested were Negeen Mayel, Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, Paul Rezkalla, and David Wood. Mayel, an eighteen-year-old female, whose parents emigrated from Afghanistan and a recent convert from Islam to Christianity, was also charged with failure to obey a police officer's orders.

According to a press release from Thomas More Law Center, Mayel was approximately 100 feet away and videotaping a discussion with some Muslims when her camera was seized.

Dr. Nabeel Qureshi is a former Muslim who converted to Christianity. He holds an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School and an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University.

The Thomas More Law Center announced June 22 that it would be representing all four of the Christian missionaries.

"These Christian missionaries were exercising their Constitutional rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion, but apparently the Constitution carries little weight in Dearborn, where the Muslim population seems to dominate the political apparatus," said Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center.

Thompson stated that the Constitution does not allow police to ban the right of free speech just because there are those to disagree.

"It's apparent that these arrests were a retaliatory action over the embarrassing video of the strong arm tactics used last year by Festival Security Guards," Thompson said. "This time, the first thing police officers did before making the arrests was to confiscate the video cameras in order to prevent a recording of what was actually happening." 

Distributing religious material or witnessing at the festival has been a matter of dispute for several years. The missionaries, who are free on bond, said that they only spoke with people who wanted to speak with them and were told that they could not hand out anything within five blocks of the Arab festival.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, a federal appeals court has ruled that another missionary, Pastor George Saieg, can distribute information on the festival's perimeter.

The ruling came after a June 7 decision by Federal District Court Judge Paul D. Borman, that upheld the Dearborn's policy of barring the distribution of religious material near the event.

Saieg, founder of Arabic Christian Perspectives, said that they have passed out Christian literature at the Dearborn festival for many years without any incidents prior to the restriction.

The appeals court stated that "the loss of a First Amendment right, 'for even minimal periods of time, unquestionable constitutes irreparable injury.'"

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