City of Dearborn Responds to Arrests of Arab Christians at Festival

July 10, 2010 at 11:31 AM 3 comments

After hearing of the individuals who were arrested at the recent Arab Festival in Dearborn MI, I wrote to the mayor expressing my anger and sadness.  I received a response yesterday (which I did not think I would receive) and I am posting it here in its entirety, in the interest of the pursuit of truth.

I want to say that I sincerely appreciate the time that the Mayor has taken to respond to my letter.  Though this is a form letter of sorts (undoubtedly meant to respond to everyone who wrote him), the truth remains that it contains information that should be actively supported by those of us who initially chided the city of Dearborn for what appeared at first to be intolerance toward Christians.  This seems not to be the case, and I for one would like to offer my sincere apologies to the Mayor and the city of Dearborn for judging them without knowing all the facts.  My hope and prayer is that others who voiced their discontent over the situation will do the same.  The Mayor’s letter is below and the only thing I have done is to bold certain URLs and names and offset the URLs so that they are easier to see.  None of Mayor  O’Reilly’s  original verbiage has been has been edited, added to, or deleted and I appreciate the opportunity to help set the record straight.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Please consider the following before condemning us

The City of Dearborn has been under attack for several years by a group identifying themselves as Acts 17 Apologetics. They arrive in Dearborn with the intent to disrupt a local cultural festival and misrepresent facts in order to further their mission of raising funds through emotional response. The funds they raise are then used to finance travel and cameras to disrupt other events in other cities.  In our case, the targeted event is not about the Muslim faith or its believers. It is a Middle Eastern cultural festival sponsored by a Chamber of Commerce and a local charitable service organization. Neither of these two entities have a religious alignment. Like events in cities all over our nation, this festival has a variety of entertainment and interests, including rides, games, performances, foods, souvenirs, and community information. Also like other events, it relies on sponsorships and fees to cover its costs.

Large tents are set up to house organizations and businesses that want to have access to the thousands of people attending this event. These groups pay a modest fee for the privilege and are allowed to carry out their activity in an assigned space within the tents.  There is no restriction placed on any lawful activity carried out in this manner, including preaching the word of God.

This past year, five Christian organizations and two Muslim organizations chose this lawful method of reaching the attendees. This is similar to past years and there has never been a problem or controversy about this type of preaching or religious engagement. The total number of table vendors at the festival exceeds eighty, so these seven faith-based groups represent a relatively small aspect of the festival. In all the materials released by Acts 17 Apologetics they have failed to mention this manner of preaching and evidencing the teaching of Jesus Christ, even though they have been offered the same opportunity each year.

In addition to the booths, we have a free speech zone at the festival for those that want free access to the festival to promote their message. This space was utilized this past year by two different Christian groups who were allowed to preach and proselytize the  entire weekend without any interference. Acts 17 Apologetics did not mention this either, even though they were within 30 feet of this space when they pretended to be arrested. Yes, I said pretended to be arrested. In a video they have posted on their website, they are standing near the Ferris wheel when some police officers approached them on Saturday, June 19. They lead you to believe that they were arrested shortly thereafter for passing out Christian flyers. Although they were temporarily detained for violating the festival rules regarding the location of the distribution of literature, they were not arrested on that day. And they were never arrested for passing out flyers.

On Friday, June 18, they behaved very differently than what you saw on film from Saturday, June 19. They were not handing out flyers but were aggressively engaging passers-by in confrontational debate when they were arrested and cited for Breach of the Peace and Failure to Obey the Lawful Order of a Police Officer.
See http://www.cityofdearborn.org for more details.

Acts 17 always retained the right to carry out their activities in a lawful manner at the festival. The video taken on Saturday illustrates that the group returned to the festival after the four arrests on Friday.

Acts 17 Apologetics has been at the Arab Festival in past years and is well aware of the written policy with regard to crowd control. They are also aware of a federal court decision in favor of the Dearborn policy of controlled access to the festival site.  This is standard practice at events all over the country. A site is identified and authorized by the government entity as a special event site. In the case of the Arab Festival, it is a number of commercial blocks between the rear alley accesses behind the businesses on either side of the commercial road.

Despite knowing this, Acts 17 Apologetics lead the viewers of the distorted video to believe that they are on public sidewalks. For the duration of the three-day event, the public sidewalks in front of the stores and businesses in the event district are no longer “public” in terms of the application of the First Amendment. They are in an area controlled to protect public safety during the event because of the extreme number of people occupying a space that was never intended to support that much activity. This practice has been upheld by the Supreme Court in “Hefron vs. International Society for Krishna Consciousness”
http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0452_0640_ZS.html

And that is what the Federal Court upheld in June:
http://www.cityofdearborn.org/images/stories/PDF/fedcourtopinion.pdf

The court decisions protect every community that must balance personal freedom with the need to provide public safety during an unusual situation. At the time he was arrested on Friday, June 18, Mr. Wood had gathered a large crowd around him, blocking a key access point between the tents. The crowd was forced to grow bigger solely because people could not pass. Those who created this public danger did so with the knowledge that they were violating the laws because they wanted to be arrested while their cohorts were actively recording the event for posting on the web. They knew that they could inflame the passions of viewers who would be taken in by their misrepresentation of what was really going on. They have even found media that would put them on air to repeat these inaccurate representations without seeking information or the truth from others.

It makes a good news story to say that a community is infringing on peoples’ rights especially when it is couched in the true bias of generating negative feelings about another religion. The real violation of First Amendment rights occurs with Acts 17 Apologetics trying to imply they were the victim when the real violation is their attack on the City of Dearborn for having tolerance for all religions including believers in the Koran.

Dearborn is a true American City that welcomes everyone in the full spirit of our great constitution. We are a community of faith that is dedicated to the welfare of everyone whether resident or guest. These gross misrepresentations have caused us to come together in a stronger way. Almost a year ago, after earlier attacks by Acts 17 Apologetics on Dearborn, I hosted a meeting with the Dearborn Area Ministerial Association (DAMA), a group of mostly Christian religious leaders, but inclusive of all faiths in Dearborn. I asked them to review the video from the 2009 festival, examine the facts and measure the impact on our community. The discussion was frank and sincere.

After that meeting with DAMA, a separate group of Dearborn Christian evangelical ministers released a written criticism of the actions and misrepresentations of Acts 17  apologetics: http://www.fairlanealliance.org/downloads/letter_concerning_acts_17.pdf

They released their statement only after trying to contact Acts 17 Apologetics to engage them in a discussion of how to achieve the goal of converting others to Christ.  They were unsuccessful in getting a response from Acts 17. The truth is Christian evangelists are active at the Arab Festival. They participate in lawful ways. While many are local, some, like world renowned minister and author Josh McDowell, come to the festival because it offers a large number of people who can  be engaged in the message of the New Testament. He and the other evangelists followed the rules and have been successful in achieving their goals. Mr. McDowell posted positive recordings of his experience at the festival in 2009:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIH1F7KGWnY

and 2010:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzh3MYv1L4A

These videos provide a sharp contrast to the recordings of Acts 17 Apologetics and, better yet, they have only truth as their motive. Dearborn is not your enemy nor are the people who live here. People who would promote hatred and lies to get others to act in ways that are contrary to what America stands for are the real enemy for all lovers of our country. History is full of horrific events that were manufactured by lies to get good people to act purely emotionally to achieve the deceiver’s ends. We hope that you will choose to become informed and avoid being taken in by people that have yet to share true faith with anyone in Dearborn.

Sincerely,
Mayor John B. O’Reilly Jr.
City of Dearborn

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Russia’s 20,000 Troops Should Christians Break the Law? Another Look at Acts 17 Apologetics

3 Comments

  • 1. amc  |  July 14, 2010 at 8:07 AM

    Well put, Modres.

    You did the right thing in clarifying the issue. If the mayor is correct then this group is actually hindering the Gospel.

  • 2. modres  |  July 13, 2010 at 12:03 PM

    Hi Wanda,

    Your judgmental attitude needs to go, but aside from that, IF Acts 17 Apologetics is doing something WRONG, while the OTHER religious groups that the mayor mentions are doing things correctly, then Acts 17 should be taken to task. You would have no more right to break the law to evangelize at the Arab Festival, than you would to force your way into my home and attempt to force me to listen to you preach. In both cases, the law has been broken.

    Did Christ EVER break the law? I am not referring to TRADITIONS, I am referring to the LAW. Christ and His disciples ate on the Sabbath, and “worked” by rolling the grain in their hands to separate the grain from the chaff. Did that actually constitute breaking the Law as the religious leaders argued? Nope. It broke their TRADITION, not the actual Law of Moses.

    You obviously believe then that given the circumstances, Jesus would ignore the laws of the land, in spite of the fact that He would have been allowed to attend the festival, and preach to whomever walked by?

    The reason I printed the Mayor’s letter was because it deserved to be printed. IF what the mayor says about Acts 17 IS correct, then how can you stand with Acts 17? Christians are NOT allowed to circumvent laws because they THINK that the laws are wrong. This leads to anarchy.

    According to the mayor, Acts 17 – like the other groups – could have evangelized LEGALLY as did the other groups. They were not kept from preaching Jesus Christ were they?

    So according to you, I am a false prophet (Matthew 24:11)? Christ is there referring to individuals who preach a completely different gospel, so how that verse applies to this situation is beyond me.

    Luke 17 is also being applied to me, because I have someone made someone sin? Your judgments are wrong, and you really need to be aware of that. Acts 17 was NOT forbidden from being there or from evangelizing people. Acts 17 wanted to do it THEIR way, and ignore the laws that applied to all people, regardless of race, or religion.

    Would you please take a moment to explain to me WHY the other religious groups were allowed to evangelize with NO PROBLEMS, yet Acts 17 was arrested?

    Did you even READ this statement by the mayor:
    Large tents are set up to house organizations and businesses that want to have access to the thousands of people attending this event. These groups pay a modest fee for the privilege and are allowed to carry out their activity in an assigned space within the tents. There is no restriction placed on any lawful activity carried out in this manner, including preaching the word of God.”

    We have had people arrested in the mall here where I live for deliberately walking up and down the mall, approaching people and in essence, harassing them with their forceful attempts to evangelize. The mall is private property and yes, while it is open to the public, harassing individuals under the guise of preaching the gospel is ridiculous and illegal. There are plenty of other ways to evangelize LEGALLY in or near the mall.

    Acts 17 was NOT told they could not evangelize. They were simply asked to follow the rules that ALL organizations must abide by in order to be allowed to participate in the festival.

    Political correctness has nothing to do with this. God also commands us to obey the laws of the land and the rulers HE has placed over us. If these rulers had told Acts 17 point blank that they were NOT allowed anywhere NEAR the festival, that would be one thing. They were not told that. They were asked to participate AS THE other groups were told to participate.

    In a recent case, a Christian man was ACROSS the street from an abortion clinic. He was on his knees, praying. He was not talking to anyone. He was not handing out flyers. He was not doing anything illegal because he was not blocking the sidewalk, nor was he on the side of the street that the abortion clinic was on. Yet, he was ARRESTED. That is unconscionable and should not have happened.

    A young street preacher in the UK was arrested for stating that “homosexuality is wrong,” in spite of the fact that he was actually in a FREE SPEECH area.

    A couple who owned a bed and breakfast in England were also recently arrested because they were talking with a Muslim guest and they indicated that Jesus was far greater than Muhammad. The Muslim went to the authorities and the couple were arrested for “hate speech.”

    IF what the mayor has stated about Acts 17 is correct, then the mayor deserves an apology. IF what the mayor has stated is INCORRECT, then Acts 17 deserves an apology. At this point, my understanding is that Acts 17 is going to be represented by a Christian attorney who will plead their case.

    In the end, we will find out who IS and who IS NOT correct. Rather than call me a false prophet, which is judging with evil thoughts, it might be better for you (and me) to wait until all the facts are on the table.

    Based on what the mayor said (unless he is a complete liar), Acts 17 may not have a leg to stand on, but the courts will decide.

    Thank you for your post.

  • 3. Wanda  |  July 13, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    You do not represent Christianity for the end times or ANY time when you post an apology to the Mayor of Dearborn without following up on this story.
    Acts 17 apologetics is following in the footsteps of the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, God Almighty who made heaven and Earth. He hit the pavement and confronted the devil with authority while showing undying love and compassion for humanity.
    I was called to Matthew 24:11 concerning your blog. And then this came to mind: Luke 17. Woe to those who cause my children to sin.
    Your apology to the Mayor can lead Christians to believe that Acts17Aplolgetics are wrong. That spreading the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ is wrong. It is not. Observing political correctness is an open invitation to the devil and things of this world that are not of God. Our job as Christians is lead humanity to the love and salvation of Jesus Christ.


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