A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday granted an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order, allowing Pastor George Saieg, a Sudanese Christian, to distribute religious literature and discuss his Christian faith to Muslims attending this year’s annual Arab Festival held in Dearborn Michigan. [Click here to read order].
The Sixth Circuit’s ruling followed a June 7, 2010, decision by federal District Court Judge Paul D. Borman that sustained the City of Dearborn’s policy of prohibiting Pastor Saieg from distributing his religious material near the festival.
When the Dearborn Police Department threatened Pastor Saieg with arrest if he distributed his religious literature near the 2009 Arab Festival, the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, challenging the constitutionality of Dearborn’s speech restriction.
Judge Borman issued his ruling in favor of the City after nearly a year of litigating the matter. TMLC filed an immediate appeal that same day and an emergency motion the following day with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, located in Cincinnati, Ohio.
For many years, Pastor George Saieg and his volunteers passed out religious material in Dearborn without incident. Dearborn happens to be one of the most densely populated Muslim communities in the United States. An estimated 30,000 of its 98,000 residents are Muslims.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented, “The Sixth Circuit’s quick response is a great victory for the First Amendment and a defeat for Dearborn’s effort to cater to its large Muslim population by ignoring our Constitution. It’s ironic that while Americans recently applauded the free speech exercised by hundreds of thousands of Muslims on the streets of Iran, the City of Dearborn was restricting the free speech rights of Christians on the city’s public streets and sidewalks.”
TMLC requested a temporary restraining order so as to allow Saieg to distribute his Christian literature during the upcoming Arab Festival scheduled for June 18-20, while the case was pending on appeal.
Senior Trial Counsel for TMLC Robert J. Muise, who is handling the case, commented, “This is a victory for the First Amendment and the free speech rights of Christians. While the extraordinary relief granted by the Sixth Circuit only applies to the upcoming festival, it is a good indication that we will ultimately prevail on appeal.”