A group of Christian evangelists from California claims that Wayne County sheriff's deputies failed to protect them when an angry crowd hurled water bottles, eggs, chunks of concrete and other objects at the Arab International Festival in Dearborn.
Instead, police told them to leave the June 2012 gathering.
An attorney for the Wayne County Sheriff's Office said the group, known for its provocative protests, was inciting a riot by carrying a pig's head mounted on a pole and shouting rhetoric attacking Islam.
Today in a rare hearing before the full U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, justices will hear arguments on whether a lawsuit by the Bible Believers can proceed against Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and two deputies.
The case involves issues of free speech and religion that have been widely discussed this year after the shootings of cartoonists in France who drew offensive images of Islam's prophet and in Copenhagen outside a free speech event.
"The Bible Believers have protested in a lot of other areas, and they have never been attacked like they were in the city of Dearborn," said Ann Arbor attorney Robert Muise of the American Freedom Law Center, who filed the lawsuit on the group's behalf.