Saturday, May 28, 2011

Freedom of speech

Court throws out Dearborn leaflet ban

City violated man's free-speech rights at festival, ruling says

Robert Snell/ The Detroit News

Detroit— A federal appeals court Thursday invalidated a leafleting ban in Dearborn, ruling the city violated a man's free-speech rights when he was blocked from trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.

The 2-1 decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sends the case back to federal court in Detroit, where the city and Police Chief Ronald Haddad could be held liable for damages.

George Saieg, a Christian Arab-American from California, sued Dearborn for being prevented in 2009 from handing out literature at the annual Arab International Festival on Warren Avenue. The festival will be held again June 17-19.

The appeals court said the city's ban is not reasonable and that the city and Haddad violated Saieg's First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

In a statement, Mayor John B. O'Reilly, Jr. said: "Since the festival chose to keep the sidewalks open for other business not related to the festival, the court ruled that the sidewalks had to be available for the material distribution," he said.

"It is a narrow opinion, and one we will abide by."

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