Judge weighs Pride fest's request to keep preacher outby Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — A federal judge was expected to rule Friday on whether a Wisconsin man could hand out Bibles at the Twin Cities Pride Festival.
Organizers of the gay pride festival on Thursday asked U.S. District Judge John Tunheim to issue an order blocking Brian Johnson from passing out literature at this weekend's festival, which is scheduled to take place at Loring Park in Minneapolis.
In previous years Johnson reserved a booth at the festival, but he was denied an official spot this year.
Twin Cities Pride organizers asked the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to further restrict Johnson's activities, claiming that they have the park reserved. But the board declined, citing free speech concerns.
Eileen Scallen, an attorney for Twin Cities Pride, said organizers are not against allowing Johnson to attend the festival.
"What we will not let you do is distribute any written material. Could be a pamphlet, it could be the Bible. It could be a comic book, it could be an ad for a gay club," Scallen said. "We will not let you distribute it, we will not let you take surveys, we will not let you give away samples unless you have an authorized, assigned booth location."
An attorney for the park board told the judge the park remains a public forum with a long history of free speech. The park board has said police will take action if Johnson disrupts the festival, but will not stop his efforts to preach there.
An attorney for Johnson said his client has the same right to be in the park as anyone else, and that he wasn't planning to disrupt the event.
- All Things Considered, 06/24/2010, 5:20 p.m.