by Joseph DeCaro
DEARBORN, Michigan (Worthy News)-- A jury acquitted four Christian missionaries accused of inciting a crowd while videotaping themselves proselytizing Muslims at the Dearborn Arab International Festival in June.
Negeen Mayel of California, Nabeel Qureshi of Virginia and Paul Rezkalla and David Wood, both of New York, were acquitted of breach of peace, but Mayel was found guilty of failure to obey a police officer.
The missionaries, members of Acts 17 Apologetics, "refute the arguments of those who oppose the true gospel, most commonly the arguments of Muslims and atheists." They claim Islam is a false and violent religion.
The four were all charged in July with disorderly conduct after police said they received a complaint of harassment from a volunteer working at the festival.
Dearborn Mayor Jack O'Reilly Jr. said the four missionaries were nothing but anti-Muslim bigots pulling a publicity stunt in order to gain attention and raise money on YouTube; a video posted by the group last year at the festival had almost 2 million views.
"It's really about a hatred of Muslims," 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."
But Dearborn attorney Majed Moughni, who helped represent the missionaries, said charges should never have been brought against them.
"Freedom of speech is important," he said." Everyone should be free to come to Dearborn to express themselves."
Robert Muise, an attorney for the Thomas More Law Center who sucessfully defended the missionaries, also argued that his clients' First Amendment rights were violated.