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Wed April 20, 2011
Dearborn's mayor sends a letter to a controversial pastor coming to his town
Dr. Terry Jones has gained notoriety in recent years for his attacks on Islam. His burning of a Qur'an in his Florida church last fall led to deadly riots in Afghanistan. Now, he's coming to Dearborn. Jones plans to hold a rally in front of the Islamic Center of America.
Dearborn mayor John O'Reilly wants Jones to reconsider. The mayor sent an open letter to Jones today, outlining why he's wrong about Dearborn and Islam. Here's the letter:
Dear Pastor Jones:
I watched you on television speaking about the Constitution and Dearborn, and it appears you need more information about both before you come to our city. I can provide insight on the Constitution, and expertise on Dearborn.
First of all, Dearborn supports the Constitution as well as any city in America. Our commitment to the Constitution is unwavering, not merely convenient, which makes your hyperbole about Sharia Law being practiced in the courts or civil law of Dearborn nonsensical. So, you are coming to protest against an imaginary threat that doesn’t exist in our community. Not in our courts, not at our City Hall, not on our streets and not in any of our places of worship.
Still, because we do understand the Constitution here, we are not preventing you from expressing your free speech. In fact, in Dearborn, we’ve even gone one step farther than most communities in support of free speech. We established, by ordinance, “Permit Free Zones” intended for demonstrations and free speech.
One of those zones is at City Hall, where from my office I have heard manyrallies being conducted in response to international, national or regional issues. This is a high visibility spot, seen by thousands of motorists but safe from traffic, with plenty of public space for protestors, supporters and the media. It is where we are asking you to conduct your demonstration. The steps of City Hall even make an impressive platform for speeches.
And, if you are unhappy with what you think is going on in Dearborn, than what better place to protest than with City Hall as the back drop?
Instead you insist on protesting in an area that has no public property to accommodate crowds, spectators, parking or the media. There is just a small public road with limited access which can’t be blocked and an adjacent grassy area for drainage. It is parallel to a major state road, but the small shoulder can accommodate people only when they have auto emergencies.
And, this property you are focusing on, in front of the Islamic Center of America, is also adjacent to four Christian churches, all of which will be hosting Good Friday services, adding to the traffic flow and congestion. It is ironic that the road that you want to protest near is called Altar Road, so named because it was first constructed to provide access to a row of churches constructed in the 1950s reflecting Dearborn’s diverse faith communities.
But I can understand if you don’t know the details of the site, or the particulars about Dearborn. But you should know about the Constitution that you claim to be defending.
The Constitution says that your rights must be balanced with the rights of others under the same document. Your free speech rights do not allow you to trespass on the private property of others or prevent them from the Constitutional right to freely practice their religion. I am not just talking about Muslims but members of all faiths.
The members of the Christian churches on Altar Road asked me last week if they should cancel their Good Friday services because of your planned visit. I assured them that they should not because the Constitution does not allow you to violate their rights. I don’t know why you selected Good Friday but it wasn’t very considerate of the significant Christian services being held at that time. I assure you that you will not make them forfeit their services.
You claim that you are coming to protest the radicalism of Islam. Like all of America, we are concerned about the radicalization of any religion that would rationalize extreme actions. However we have not let this concern turn into a twisted paranoia that promotes fear-mongering and misleading generalizations. You state that you are coming to the Islamic Center of America because it is the largest mosque in America. What does that have to do with the radicalism of Islam? While size may matter to you, we prefer to focus on actual behavior. And according to our Police Department and the anti-terrorism agencies they work with, there has never been evidence of any wrongdoing in any of Dearborn’s mosques.
It appears your choice of the Islamic Center of America is not because it has any relationship to the stated object of your free speech but because it symbolizes the Islamic faith in general. If so, that is not truly in line with the Constitution you say you are defending.
There is no Sharia Law in Dearborn, only Constitutional Law. Sharia Law is church- or faith-based law that is applicable only to the followers of that faith. For me it is Cannon Law of Catholicism, in Judaism it is Torah Law, and for Muslims it is Sharia Law. The actual originator of the event you plan to hold in Dearborn, Frank Fiorello of the Fraternal Order of the Dragon, accepted my invitation to learn more about Dearborn, and after seeing the truth, he canceled his protest.
But, if you don’t believe that Dearborn follows the Constitution, here are some realistic facts for you. Businesses in Dearborn lawfully meet the diverse needs of our Greater Detroit area, but if Dearborn practiced Sharia Law, would we have three adult entertainment bars and more alcohol licensed bars and restaurants per capita than most other cities? None of that should be allowed under Sharia Law.
How about this? A business we boast about, the nationally known Dearborn Sausage, opened more than 60 years ago across the street from the first mosque in Dearborn and is famous for its sausages and spiral sliced hams. It is one of many meat packing operations in our City and no one has ever objected.
Dearborn is also famous for The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, where more than 1.5 million visitors come each year from across the country and the world to learn about the foundations of our American way of life.
Dearborn is a diverse, safe and unified City that is addressing its future in a proactive manner. We cherish the American Dream that brought so many people here during the last century to earn a decent wage and enjoy a high quality of life thanks to Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company. And for Dearborn, our success and our identity is tied to welcoming people of all backgrounds who have chosen to make America, and our community, their home. We are proud to have welcomed them.
As we work hard to balance your rights with the rights of others in Dearborn, you will be extended every courtesy during your visit – as long as you follow the law based on the Constitution’s protection of everyone’s rights. That should be a familiar statement to you.
You have said over and over that “Muslims are welcome as long as they follow the Constitution.” Surely, then, you wouldn’t ask less of yourself.