Dearborn, Michigan — The City of Dearborn, Michigan has issued an apology as part of a settlement reached between city officials and three Christians who were arrested in 2010 while engaging in evangelistic activity at a local festival attended by many Muslims.
On June 18, 2010, David Wood, Nabeel Qureshi and Paul Rezkalla of Acts 17 Apologetics were arrested while answering questions from children and others attending the Arab International Festival in Dearborn. After being charged with disturbing the peace, the Christians went on trial and were acquitted.
The American Freedom Law Center in Michigan consequently filed a lawsuit against the City of Dearborn for arresting Wood, Quereshi and Rezkalla. Mayor John B. O’Reilly, Chief of Police Ronald Haddad, 17 City police officers and two executives from the American Arab Chamber of Commerce were all named in the legal complaint.
Last week, the City of Dearborn agreed to enter into a settlement with the Christians, which includes posting a public apology on its website for three years.
“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 apology states in part. “When all of the information—including the video captured by Wood, Qureshi, and Rezkalla—was presented to a Dearborn jury, the jury found that these individuals were not guilty of the criminal offense of breach of peace.”
“The City of Dearborn regrets and apologizes for the decisions to arrest and prosecute David Wood, Nabeel Qureshi, and Paul Rezkalla and the hardship caused to everyone involved,” it continues. “Through this apology and its acceptance by David Wood, Nabeel Qureshi, and Paul Rezkalla, the parties seek 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 settlement also requires the city to remove a news release and letter from its website, in which Mayor John O’Reilly decried the “their attack on the City of Dearborn for having tolerance for all religions including believers in the Koran.”
O’Reilly changed his tune on Monday, according to the Detroit Free Press.
“The city regrets any action that has a negative effect on someone’s rights,” he said. “In this case, our apology allows us to move forward, and it demonstrates that we remain committed to the principles of free speech.”
The American Freedom Law Center states that it is pleased with the settlement.
“For too long our clients have been vilified for simply exercising their constitutional right to evangelize on a public street during the Arab Festival. And despite their acquittal, they continued to be treated as if they had committed a crime,” remarked co-founder and senior legal counsel Robert Muise. “With this settlement and apology, our clients have been vindicated and this dispute with the City will finally be put to rest.”
However, it notes that other concerns still remain.
“While the dispute with the City is over, there is still unfinished business with the Arab Chamber,” legal partner David Yerushalmi added. “As the City itself noted in its apology, Arab Festival volunteers and workers, who were acting under the guidance and direction of the Arab Chamber and its executive director, Fay Beydoun, and pursuant to the Chamber’s festival ‘rules and regulations,’ are similarly responsible for the violation of our clients’ rights, and we intend to hold them accountable.”