Unless something else went on that no one is admitting, I have to agree with the righties on this one. Merely standing in a public area and handing out literature is not “disorderly conduct.”
So, no matter that I think it’s a damnfool thing to do, if Christian proselytizers are standing in a public area next to the Arab International Festival in Dearborn, Michigan, and silently handing out copies of the Gospel, I don’t see how they could be afoul of the law. Of course, it’s possible the area wasn’t really public, or that stuff went on that wasn’t captured on video camera. But until I hear otherwise I have to assume the arrests were not justified.
And it strikes me that handing out Gospels outside a Muslim festival is is a blatant act of territorial marking. The message is less “come to Jesus” than “you’re not one of us, and don’t forget it.” But as long as they weren’t literally pissing on trees, the “markers” have a right to do that.
Another explanation might be that the area was a designated “free speech buffer” zone, like big chunks of Manhattan became during the 2004 Republican Convention. Allahpundit writes that the Dearborn incident is “one of the most ridiculous First Amendment violations you’ll ever see,” but I say it doesn’t come close to citizens being rounded up in orange nets and hauled away to detention just because they might get unruly.
In other news, the remains of 72 people, killed on September 11, were sifted out of debris that had been removed from under Manhattan’s West Side Highway. This story triggered a hearty round of chest-thumping on several rightie blogs.
It also triggered renewed outrage about plans to build a mosque two blocks from the “ground zero” site. Sorry righties; there are churches and synagogues in the same area. Equal protection under the law, and all that. You can’t complain about peaceful proselytizers in Dearborn and then deny a building permit to Muslims in Manhattan, just because they’re Muslims.