Today, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan entered final judgment in favor of a group of Christian evangelists who were violently attacked by a hostile Muslim mob while preaching at the Arab Festival in Dearborn, Michigan in 2012.
The case, Bible Believers v. Wayne County, was brought by the American Freedom Law Center on behalf of the Christians. As a result of this judgment, Wayne County agreed to pay $197,500 in attorneys’ fees and costs.
This judgment brings to a conclusion the lengthy and hard fought litigation in this matter—litigation which included a full court (en banc) review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
On October 28, 2015, a majority of the full court of the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of the Christians. The en banc court completely reversed a lower court decision which ruled in favor of Wayne County and officials from the County Sheriff’s Office who silenced the Christians’ speech in response to the hostile mob’s reaction.
In its decision, which was made final today by the entry of judgment in the district court, the Sixth Circuit ruled, among other things, that two Deputy Chief defendants from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office were liable for violating the Christians’ First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion and for depriving the Christians of the equal protection of the law. The court ruled that these individual defendants did not enjoy qualified immunity.
This decision was a major victory for the Constitution and for all freedom-loving Americans. It affirms that the First Amendment protects speech critical of Islam and that when the government seeks to suppress such speech by enforcing a heckler’s veto that favors the violent Muslim mob over the free speech rights of Christians, the government will pay dearly for this egregious violation.
In its opinion, the Sixth Circuit stated, in relevant part:
"The freedom to espouse sincerely held religious, political, or philosophical beliefs, especially in the face of hostile opposition, is too important to our democratic institution for it to be abridged simply due to the hostility of reactionary listeners who may be offended by a speaker’s message. If the mere possibility of violence were allowed to dictate whether our views, when spoken aloud, are safeguarded by the Constitution, surely the myriad views that animate our discourse would be reduced to the standardization of ideas by the dominant political or community groups. Democracy cannot survive such a deplorable result.”
In sum, this case is an example where the good form of "lawfare" succeeded in fighting on behalf of and for liberty. It’s a case where the Constitution was upheld even when the full force of political correctness was operating against it. Kudos to Judge Clay, the author of the Sixth Circuit's en banc opinion, and the majority of judges who joined him in this important decision.