The organisers of Twin Cites Pride – the LGBT celebration for Minneapolis-St Paul – are awaiting a ruling from District Judge John Tunheim on their injunction to have Christian evangelists Brian and Lois Johnson banned from Loring Park where the festival is to be held.
Mr and Mrs Johnson of Hayward, Wisconsin, have attended Twin Cites Pride for the last four years, handing out Bibles and telling Pride celebrants that they must “repent”. Last year, Mr Johnson was denied permission to set up his stall there, but turned up anyway and was promptly arrested. This year however, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board have given Mr Johnso the go-ahead, saying that anyone should be able to walk through a public park and express themselves freely.
However, Twin Cities Pride lawyers argue that since the group has leased the park for the event, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars, it should be able to dictate who gets to take part in the festival’s activities there.
Eileen Scallen, co-counsel to the Pride Festival, said, “[Mr Johnson] can distribute his materials from a city sidewalk, over which we have no permit, across from Loring Park. That is his first amendment right. But [he]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.”
The Johnsons apparently have the full backing of the Alliance Defense Fund, which has defended similar cases in the States. The Fund says it will sue Minneapolis if the Johnsons are barred from the park.
The festival is expected to attract up to 300,000 people this weekend. A verdict on the injuction is expected very soon.