Man Allowed Last-Minute Injunction to Distribute Bibles at Gay Pride Fest
By Ruth Miyake - Crossmap On June 26, 2012
Gay Pride Festival
At the very last minute, Brian Johnson won the permission to distribute Bibles at a gay pride festival in Minneapolis on Sunday.
Johnson, a taxidermist from Hayward, Wisconsin, received approval for handing out Bibles at the 40th annual Twin Cities Pride Festival held at the Loring Park in Minneapolis.
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"I do this once a year. I talk to people about the love of Jesus Christ," said the evangelical Christian, who brought a suitcase full of Bibles to the pride fest.
After the festival organizers attempted to ban Johnson from the park, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) planned to restrict Johnson's activity within a certain zone at the edge of the festival, according to Star Tribune.
Two weeks ago, the evangelical Christian requested for an injunction against the ban.
Johnson filed his appeal after the U.S. District Court in Minnesota decided in favor of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB), which sought to allow Johnson the opportunity to distribute Bibles only within a certain zone at the event.
It was not until Thursday that the court granted him a last-minute preliminary injunction, which gave Johnson full access to the park at the event.
"We think it is a good sign that the Eighth Circuit ruled so quickly and, we believe correctly, and upheld a fundamental First Amendment right to distribute literature in a public park," said his attorney, Jonathan Scruggs of the Alliance Defense Fund of Memphis, which defends religious liberties.
Ever since 1995, Johnson annually distributed Bibles at the event, and there were no problems until 2009 when the organization refused to rent him a booth following a conversation about his stance on homosexuality, according to Tribute.
"They did not like his beliefs regarding homosexual conduct and the Bible and they rejected his application," Scruggs told The Christian Post on Monday.
Johnson then decided to walk around the park to distribute Bible the following year, and was arrested. After receiving a letter from the ADF explaining why it was Johnson's constitutional right to distribute literature on public land, the MPRB agreed and allowed him to do so once again, reports CP.
After the event organizers filed a lawsuit, the MPRB made a settlement with them by setting up the special zones for distribution of literature. However, the zones were outside the event and didn’t grant Johnson the ability to reach his target audience, which Scruggs pointed out as "unfair."
"To suppress speech in a public park, the burden is on the government to show that restriction is necessary, and the government simply cannot carry that burden ... There's no reason to prohibit Johnson from distributing literature throughout the park because literature distribution doesn't cause any problems," Scruggs explained.
Despite the temporary injunction that was granted, Scruggs believes that there is still much more work to be done for Johnson to safely give out Bibles at the events in the future.
"I think it's a good sign, but it's far from decisive," said Scruggs. "The appeal is still ongoing."