Pride Fest expects anti-gay evangelist court ruling today

Who gets to walk in the park?
Who gets to walk in the park?
Photo: GypsyFae

Should conservative Christian evangelist Brian Johnson be allowed to proselytize in Loring Park during the Twin Cities Pride Festival? U.S. District Judge John Tunheim is expected to issue a ruling at any moment on an injunction sought by festival organizers to bar Johnson from the park during the event.

Twin Cities Pride lawyers argue that since the group has leased the park for the event, it should be able to dictate who gets to take part in the festival's activities there. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board says anyone should be able to walk through a public park and express themselves freely.

Johnson, of Hayward, Wis., has attended Pride Fest for years, handing out bibles and telling gay folk they need to repent. Last year, he was denied a booth, showed up anyway to get his message out, and was arrested. This year, the Park Board OK'd Johnson's request to be in the park, but said he'll be arrested if he's disruptive.

"He can distribute his materials from a city sidewalk, over which we have no permit, across from Loring Park. That is his first amendment right," Eileen Scallen, co-counsel to the Pride Festival, said in a statement. "But Mr. Johnson and his family have no right to protest our message of Pride by distributing leaflets or any other written materials on park property that we have leased."

About 200,000 people are expected to attend the weekend-long Pride Festival, and hundreds of businesses and organizations have leased space in Loring Park. For a full list of vendors at the festival, click here.

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