Judge tosses suit against Muslim group over speech

ALLEGAN, Mich. (AP) -- A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a conservative Christian advocacy group's lawsuit against a Muslim rights organization over the cancellation of a speech by an anti-Muslim speaker at a southwestern Michigan school.

The Thomas More Law Center sued the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in 2012, saying its Michigan director violated the free speech rights of then-state Rep. Dave Agema and others involved in the event at Allegan High School.

Allegan police interrupted Kamal Saleem's speech on Jan. 28, 2012, saying there were threats of violence against him. Dawud Walid, executive director of the Muslim group's Michigan chapter, had written the school district earlier objecting to Saleem's appearance.

U.S. District Judge Janet Neff dismissed Walid and his group as defendants. Neff also dismissed claims against Allegan police and the group People for the American Way, which advocates for liberal causes.

The lawsuit was also filed against the City of Allegan and the Allegan Public School District.

CAIR officials said it was a "meritless claim" meant to harass Walid and the group's Southfield-based chapter.

"We welcome the decision by the federal judge to dismiss this frivolous lawsuit," CAIR attorney Lena Masri said.

Thomas More lawyer Erin Elizabeth Mersino said the plaintiffs will appeal.

Part of the event's purpose was to show "the internal threat to America posed by radical Muslims" and Sharia, the Islamic religious law, according to the lawsuit.

Also scheduled to be discussed at the meeting was legislation introduced by Agema, a former Republican lawmaker from Grandville, that would constitutionally ban the use of Sharia or non-U.S. laws in state courts.

The legislation language stated that use of foreign law would be outlawed only when it violated rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The bills didn't specifically mention Sharia law, which broadly refers to codes within the Islamic legal system, but the legislation's supporters frequently cite it as a primary concern.

Agema, now a Republican National Committee member, is being criticized by the GOP and Democrats alike for making anti-Muslim and anti-gay remarks. He said Wednesday he will skip this week's RNC meeting in Washington.

Published: Fri, Jan 24, 2014

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