A Massachusetts landlord, who is also an ordained minister, is claiming her constitutional rights have been violated after a trial court ordered her to take a class in Islam as part of her sentence for pushing a Muslim tenant down a flight of stairs.
Now the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s highest legal authority, has agreed to hear the case, according to The Associated Press via Fox News.
Landlord Daisy Obi, the 73-year-old pastor of the Adonai Bible Center in Somerville, rented an apartment in her multi-family home to Gihan Suliman, her husband and five young children in April, 2012.
It was an uneasy relationship as both landlord and tenant had beefs almost from the start, with Obi complaining that Suliman has as many as 12 to 15 people living in the premises at one point, and Suliman complaining that the heat and electricity didn’t always work.
Suliman testified that a month after she and her family moved in, Obi began hurling anti-Muslim rants at her, once when she was with her children.
Several months later, Obi accused Suliman of ringing her doorbell and gave her a shove, sending the tenant down 15 to 20 stairs, according to Suliman’s testimony.
After finding Obi guilty of assault and battery, Judge Paul Yee Jr. sentenced her to two years in prison with the stipulation that she may only serve six months if, during the suspended 18 months she comply with special conditions of probation.
“I want you to learn about the Muslim faith,” he said. “I want you to enroll and attend an introductory course on Islam.
“I do want you to understand people of the Muslim faith, and they need to be respected. They may worship Allah … but they need to be respected.”
The AP reported:
Obi vehemently denied making any anti-Muslim statements to Suliman or pushing her.
She testified she was inside her apartment praying when she heard a knock at the door from the police, who arrested her.
Obi said in a phone interview that she believes Suliman had a vendetta against her because she refused to allow her to let more people live in her apartment.
Obi’s lawyer argues the probation condition that she learn about the Muslim faith “burdens Dr. Obi’s free exercise of religion.”
“It is beyond dispute that the Constitution guarantees that the government may not coerce anyone to support or participate in religion or its exercise,” attorney Kimberly Peterson wrote in a legal brief.
Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr., himself a noted trial and appellate lawyer, sided with Peterson on Monday’s Fox & Friends.
“This is more than a head-scratcher,” he told co-host Steve Doocy. “This is a constitutional outrage.”
Watch the clip, via Fox News.
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