A Massachusetts landlord convicted of pushing a Muslim tenant down the stairs will have to serve six months in jail and take a class on Islam, the state’s highest court ruled Wednesday. The Supreme Judicial Court ruling came in the case of Daisy Obi, a Christian minister from Nigeria who was convicted of assault and battery for pushing her tenant in 2012. A judge sentenced Obi to two years in jail, but suspended all but six months of the sentence. As a condition of her probation, the judge ordered Obi to attend an introductory class on Islam.
Obi, who is in her 70s, appealed both the sentence and the requirement that she take a class on Islam, arguing that the requirement violated her constitutional right to free exercise of religion.
The high court found that Obi had not shown that her sentence was disproportionate to the seriousness of the offense.
Obi’s former tenant, Gihan Suliman, cut her lip and injured her shoulder in the fall. During the sentencing hearing, Suliman said the assault had a “deep physical impact” on her and that she does not trust people in the same way she did before.
The court did not directly address Obi’s constitutional objections to the requirement that she attend a class on Islam, but said she waived that claim in her appeal because she never raised that objection in the lower court.
“While conditions of probation that touch on religion and risk incursion upon constitutionally protected interests should be imposed only with great circumspection, the defendant raised no such concerns before the trial court judge, and there is no information in the record that would allow us to evaluate her claims,” Justice Barbara Lenk wrote for the court in the unanimous ruling.
The court’s upholding of Obi’s sentence means she will have to take the course on Islam.
Suliman claimed that Obi taunted her and her children with anti-Muslim insults on several occasions before the day she pushed her down a flight of stairs at Obi’s multi-family home in Somerville, just outside Boston.
Obi, the pastor of the Adonai Bible Center in Somerville, denied ever making disparaging remarks about Muslims and said she did not push Suliman.
Obi’s attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the ruling. A spokeswoman for Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.