Gay Pride, Bibles and Free Speech: 8th Circuit Grants Injunction

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 26, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In the spirit of Gay Pride month, we bring you this case out of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Brian Johnson, a man who has been handing out Bibles at the Gay Pride Parade in the Twin Cities since 1995, was granted an emergency temporary injunction last week, allowing him to proceed with the distribution as planned, the Star Tribune reports.

District Court Judge Michael Davis denied Johnson's injunction request earlier this month.

Johnson has been a regular at the Gay Pride Fest in the Twin Cities for more than 15 years, handing out Bibles and trying to convince attendees that homosexuality is a sin in the Bible.

In 2009, he was denied a booth at the event. Nevertheless, he showed up and found himself on the wrong side of the law, according to CityPages. (Johnson was arrested, but the charges were later dropped.)

In 2010, organizers of the Pride festivities tried to get a court injunction to keep Johnson out. At that time, District Court Judge John Tunheim ruled in favor of free speech, holding that the Pride planners were seeking a broad, content-based restriction in violation of Johnson's right to free speech.

For the 2011 festivities, Johnson was allowed to have a booth outside the festival area and was allowed inside the festival, but was forbidden from distributing literature inside the festival.

Johnson agreed to these terms at the time, and distributed his Bibles outside the festival area. Then he filed a lawsuit against the Minneapolis Park Board in federal court.

The Board claimed that their plan to confine Johnson to the outskirts of the festival was supported by the greater purpose of crowd control.

The suit isn't over yet, but Johnson and his sons were allowed to hand out Bibles at Sunday's festivities.

Compare this suit to the one involving the Arab Festival in Michigan that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decided last May.

Last year, the Sixth Circuit granted George Saeig access to the Dearborn Arab Festival after Saeig was banned from handing out Christian literature and trying to convert attendees at the festival.

While the current case has yet to be decided, the Sixth Circuit case provides the framework for these types of cases, showing that religious literature is protected speech, which must be properly restricted in a public forum, (i.e. a narrowly tailored restriction which isn't content-based).

If the emergency injunction and the Sixth Circuit case are any indication, Brian Johnson could be headed for an Eighth Circuit victory.

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