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Dearborn Issues Public Apology to Missionaries Arrested at Arab International Festival

The city agreed to pay an undisclosed amount of money to Acts 17 Apologetics to settle a lawsuit stemming from a 2010 incident.

The city of Dearborn has agreed to publicly apologize to a group of Christian missionaries arrested in 2010 while protesting at the annual Arab International Festival, according to a lawsuit settlement announced on Monday.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Freedom Law Center in Ann Arbor on behalf of Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, David Wood and Paul Rezkalla, members of the Christian missionary group Acts 17 Apologetics, who said their rights were violated when they were arrested by police on June 18, 2010, and charged with “breach of the peace” for their protest.

Under the terms of the settlement, the city must post an apology on its website for three years. It also must remove a news release and letter from Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly that had criticized the group for “their attack on the city of Dearborn for having tolerance for all religions including believers in the Koran," according to the Detroit Free Press.

"At the end of the day, this decision made sense for all parties," O'Reilly said. "We're happy to comply with their request for a posted apology. It reflects the fact that we believe in free speech and we want to make sure we continue to support those rights."

According to the posted apology, the city states that it "regrets and apologizes for the decisions to arrest and prosecute" the missionaries.

"The decision to arrest these individuals was based in part on information provided to the Dearborn police by Arab Festival attendees, workers, and volunteers," the city states.

In September 2010, a jury unanimously acquitted the men of any wrongdoing.

"Through this apology ... the city seeks to build a bridge and to confirm to the community that members of all faiths are welcome in Dearborn to peacefully share their views and to engage in religious discussions," the city wrote.

O'Reilly said under the lawsuit settlement, the city also agreed to pay the three missionaries an undisclosed amount of money to compensate them for any hardship that occurred during their arrest.

Festival looking to make changes in 2013

The settlement is the latest development in ongoing tensions between some Christian groups and Arab Americans in the city.

O'Reilly said the festival has enjoyed a long peaceful history along Warren Avenue, but beginning in 2009 more aggressive Christian groups began attending the event carrying anti-Muslim signs and shouting racial comments to festival attendees.

Last year a group known as the Bible Believers brought a pig's head mounted to a pole to the festival, eliciting angry reactions from devout Muslims, who consider the animal unclean.

Terry Jones, pastor of Dove World Outreach Center, a small Christian church in Gainesville, Fla. announced on Friday that he intends to return to the festival this year to preach against Islam. The pastor staged protests at the festival in 2011 and outside Edsel Ford High School in 2012.

Festival organizers said earlier this month that the festival, scheduled for June 15-17, will move from Warren Avenue, where it has been held for the past 18 years, to Ford Woods Park, near the corner of Ford and Greenfield roads. One of the main arguments for the venue change is to provide a more controlled environment.

The American Arab Chamber of Commerce said the event will be open to the public, however there will be an admission fee to enter the festival, which includes games, amusement park rides and arts and crafts booths throughout the three-day event.

O'Reilly said a contract has not yet been finalized with the chamber.

"We're still working out the details," he said.

One of those details is the cost for police services. For the past two years, police services were provided by the Wayne County Sheriff's Office.

O'Reilly said the chamber will be expected to pay for six full-time Dearborn police officers, DPW crews for park clean-up, as well as park rental fees.

He said there has been no indication that festival organizers plan to cancel the event.

"We have a track record showing that this festival has certainly been capable of being very successful with no incidents. If we, together with the chamber, can make this new site work and make it successful, I'm fine with that. If not, it will be their decision on whether (the festival) continues," O'Reilly said.

Calls to the American Arab Chamber of Commerce were not returned as of Monday.

Pam May 07, 2013 at 12:53 PM
What an incredible waste of time, effort and my tax money to rid ourselves of these "Christians". I am surprised the city did not agree to post a giant crucifix on the home page of the City's website for 3 years.
cheryl May 07, 2013 at 01:14 PM
If I'm paying for this asshattery, then I want to know how much.
Sean May 07, 2013 at 01:24 PM
I've got my money on more than what McDonalds laid out for those Unholy McNuggets, PBUH (peace be upon the Hamburgler)
Linda May 07, 2013 at 01:30 PM
"The cost for police services. For the past two years, police services were provided by the Wayne County Sheriff's Office. O'Reilly said the chamber will be expected to pay for six full-time Dearborn police officers, DPW crews for park clean-up, as well as park rental fees" And why isn't the Arab International Festival paying these fees? Would the chamber pick up the entire tab for a Chrisitan Festival? Probably not.
James May 07, 2013 at 02:27 PM
I agree! Watch there be a bond issue on the next ballot to pay for the city's "undisclosed" settlements.
James May 07, 2013 at 02:29 PM
Per O'Reilly: "It reflects the fact that we believe in free speech and we want to make sure we continue to support those rights..." as long as it's in a designated "Free Speech Zone"?
Youssef May 07, 2013 at 03:47 PM
The Arab American Chamber of Commerce organizes the festival, thats why they pay the fees. (They are the Arab International Festival)
Youssef May 07, 2013 at 03:50 PM
Just wondering who pays the tab for the Police Department and DPW to cover Homecoming? a private organization or our tax dollars?
Jim Johnson May 07, 2013 at 04:09 PM
According to the Dearborn Press and Guide the apology states: “On June 18, 2010, David Wood, Nabeel Qureshi (co-founders of Acts 17 Apologetics) and Paul Rezkalla were arrested by Dearborn police officers at the Dearborn Arab International Festival (“Arab Festival”), while they were engaging in a peaceful dialogue about their Christian faith with several festival attendees. Wood, Qureshi, and Rezkalla were subsequently charged with breach of peace, a misdemeanor offense. According to the Dearborn Patch: The city of Dearborn has agreed to publicly apologize to a group of Christian missionaries arrested in 2010 while protesting at the annual Arab International Festival, according to a lawsuit settlement announced on Monday. So a peaceful dialogue is now considered protesting? Hmmm...must be a Dearborn thing.
Pam May 07, 2013 at 04:18 PM
I've tried to figure that out. Supposedly the administration has organized a 501(c)(3) to pay for much of these expenses. If you tried to read the "report" the city has put out on Homecoming receipts and disbursements, it's impossible to tell who is paying what, and what in fact are these total expenses, including personnel involved in set-up, daily monitoring and clean up. I'm just sick of scarce tax dollars being used in any way to pay for entertainment and city incompetence, and not accounting to the taxpayer on top of it.
David Dean May 07, 2013 at 04:30 PM
Denying free speech is costly. You folk should know.
David Dean May 07, 2013 at 04:31 PM
Had to pay them to.
Jim Johnson May 07, 2013 at 04:31 PM
I wonder the same thing. Also I know in 2011 they were talking about cancelling the Arab International Festival relating to cost of having it. According to a previous story on the Patch: At a city council study session Thursday night at City Hall, Mayor Jack O’Reilly said that the three-day festival, which began in 1995, costs Dearborn about $59,000 each year. Given the city's budget crunch, officials said it may be too costly this year. Has this been changed or are we still paying for this festival?
Jim Johnson May 07, 2013 at 04:37 PM
Yeah, they had to pay them for the unlawful arrest. If you are having a peaceful dialogue you can't arrest someone for that. If you don't like their message you can't arrest someone for that either. I was just pointing out that the above article states they were protesting when in fact they weren't. I saw their videos on YouTube.
Marium Wilke May 07, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Shame on the person who gave the orders to arrest these people for their freedom of speech over a religious belief..we have so many in this country.....Who is it that thinks they are so in control that they are the one to pull the plug...What a bad reputation we are getting or have...do to the ignorance of people in charge that gave the orders to do this arrest..What happen to FREEDOM OF SPEECH HELLOOOO!!!! now we have to pay out money for our bad manners...and we are Americans and our taught about FREEDOM OF SPEECH...To all of our elected officials stop mixing relgion with our politics...There is the seperation of State remember..Let people speak we might not agree on what their saying but don't make our city and our people look like we don't honor what our counrty is made of..
Tom May 07, 2013 at 06:59 PM
There's no such thing as an Arab American or and African American...we're all Americans. Stop dividing this nation with where you came from. You're either in this country, or out.
Rick Perconte May 07, 2013 at 07:38 PM
Tell that to the mooslims who refuse to assimilate and become "Americans".
James May 07, 2013 at 07:44 PM
Yes, David Dean, you are correct. No speech should be denied. However 'you folk' is not a term widely used outside of the South.
edward binkley May 07, 2013 at 08:21 PM
we break even on what we bring in and the homecoming is what brings the people to our city.. so to answer we pay for it
DG May 07, 2013 at 08:37 PM
"Arab" doesn't equate to "not Christian," regardless of the discriminatory point I think you are trying to make.
Vincent Nucci May 07, 2013 at 09:50 PM
Thank O'Reilly for spending money on this useless management decision of his, now the residents have to cover his big ass. Why can't we find out exactly what its going to cost, is O'Reilly afraid to let us know, because its an election year, and he needs to hide this matter.
Daniel Lai May 08, 2013 at 02:50 AM
After further inquiry, we were told both parties have agreed to nondisclosure and will not release the amount unless requested by the court or required to by the law.
Jim Johnson May 08, 2013 at 03:12 PM
I was speaking of the Arab International Festival.
Sean May 08, 2013 at 03:48 PM
Who cares. He has his 40% vote by his buddies he defends from objectionable speech. Old Jackyl will never tell us what the cost of him being a white knight will be to the taxpaying citizens.
Donna Hay May 08, 2013 at 04:16 PM
Jus hope people remember this when it comes time to vote!!
edward binkley May 08, 2013 at 05:12 PM
ithink his votes will come from the firefighters and police unions from what i hear on the street. that he has made everyone mad at city hall and the city council heard this yesterday morning at panera bread.
edward binkley May 08, 2013 at 05:13 PM
come give me your support help me get my last 10 signatures to get on the ballot i work at the bp gas station on mason and michigan avenue needing help now.
laplateau May 08, 2013 at 05:15 PM
Well said Marium. O'Reilly loves to bend over for the Arab contingency. This was a shame to have his police officers arrest them for not speaking in a "Free Speech Zone" . What an affront to our constitution. I'd love to have O’Reilly arrested for his latest rant on gun control, telling him he can't say those things without prior approval and in the approved place. Makes me think we are in Nazi Germany or Russia.

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