ACLJ says Dearborn arrests are a concern

By June 23, 2010

USA (MNN) — Accusations are now beginning to surface about the four Christians who were arrested in Dearborn, Michigan over the weekend. Reports indicate Nabeel Qureshi, David Woods, Paul Rezkalla, and an 18-year-old girl named Negeen were arrested for disorderly conduct. The four are part of an organization called "Act 17 Apologetics."

They were arrested as they tried sharing the Gospel outside the Arab International Festival in Dearborn, Michigan over the weekend.

"In Michigan the 'disorderly conduct' statute is very broad. It can be used by police officers for pretty much anything," says Ed White, Senior council in Ann Arbor, Michigan for the American Center for Law and Justice. He says, "One of the volunteers claimed to the police officers that four members of this group surrounded the volunteer and wouldn't let the volunteer leave the area, and in effect was causing a threat to the volunteer."

However, the four reject this claim, saying they have the complete incident on videotape, which the police confiscated.

The ACLJ is specifically dedicated to the ideal that religious freedom and freedom of speech are inalienable, God-given rights. They go to court to protect these freedoms.

White says, "Christians nowadays are one of the main targets [of authorities], and that's why organizations like the American Center for Law and Justice exist, so we can take matters to court," to protect religious freedom.

Generally speaking, authorities in the U.S. won't tell you that you're being arrested because of your free speech activity. "More times than not, they come up with an excuse as to why they're getting rid of this person other than 'we don't like your speech' — even though more times than not, it's because they don't like your speech."

Act 17 Apologetics has been accused of being confrontational by other evangelical ministries. However, they insist they weren't at this event. Even if they were, White says that's not grounds to be arrested. "We're not talking about defamation and things like that; we're talking about speech dealing with your religious faith and trying to educate people about Jesus — that is not a crime."

White says this arrest shouldn't be a deterrent to sharing the Gospel. "[Christians] shouldn't be afraid to do that. They should realize that sometimes it can be a bumpy road, but it's a road that they need to walk on."

If you plan to share your faith in the United States, White advises, "What people need to do is to become aware of what their rights are. They can go to the ACLJ Web site. We have a lot of resources to tell people — in general –what your rights are in this country when it comes to spreading the Gospel."

ACLJ helps protect religious freedom by providing legal assistance free of charge. If you'd like additional information about their work, click here.

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