Judge sides with 'street preachers' at holiday festivalby Dan Kraker, Minnesota Public Radio
Duluth, Minn. — A federal judge has sided with two "street preachers" saying they have the right to express their views at a holiday festival in Duluth.
The case dates back to last winter, when Steve Jankowski of Duluth and Peter Scott of Hibbing say a Duluth police officer and an organizer of the "Bentleyville Tour of Lights' waterfront display did not allow them to preach at the festival.
Earlier this year, they sued the city of Duluth, which argued that the private nonprofit operating the festival had the right to exclude people. But U.S. District Judge Michael Davis disagreed and ruled that because the event was held at a public waterfront park, the plaintiffs had the right to express their views. Attorney Jonathan Scruggs with the Christian group Alliance Defense Fund says the judge upheld the plaintiffs' main complaint.
"And that is, the city cannot ban the First Amendment in a public park just because event officials don't like the message that a person is sharing."
Duluth City Attorney Gunnar Johnson said the city will comply with the court's ruling. But he doesn't know what the private organization that runs the festival will do next year.
Bentleyville's contract with the city runs through 2013.