Justice in Dearborn, Sort Of

We wrote here about the criminal prosecution of Christian evangelists in Dearborn, Michigan, who had the temerity to pass out the Gospel of John on a public street, a block or two away from an area where a Muslim festival was going on. They were charged with disorderly conduct; you can see how disorderly they actually were in this video:

Now, via Andy McCarthy at The Corner, we learn that the evangelists have been acquitted of the criminal charges against them:

Much to the barely concealed chagrin of the Detroit Free Press, the Christian evangelists who were arrested for distributing St. John’s gospel on a public street outside an Arab festival in Dearborn, Michigan, a few months back have been found not guilty of breaching the peace. One of the four defendants was apparently found guilty of the less serious offense of failing to obey a police officer’s order.

The policeman’s order violated the First Amendment, so that conviction should be subject to reversal. It is good that a Michigan jury didn’t buy this plainly unconstitutional prosecution, but the story, taken as a whole, is sobering. These evangelists incurred expenses that must have been well into five figures, at a bare minimum, and on top of that had a legitimate fear of criminal conviction–all for engaging in activity that falls within the heart of the First Amendment’s protection. They were vilified, too; this is from the Detroit Free Press story that McCarthy refers to:

“It’s really about a hatred of Muslims,” [Dearborn Mayor Jack] O’Reilly said. “That is what the whole heart of this is. … Their idea is that there is no place for Muslims in America. They fail to understand the Constitution.”

That quote is so Orwellian as to leave one speechless. Passing out the Gospel of John reflects a “fail[ure] to understand the Constitution”? Does the Constitution ban Christianity? Some on the Left apparently think so.
The idea that a prosecution of this sort could take place in 21st-century America is an outrage, and the fact that it failed–this time–is small consolation.

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