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Appeals Court: Man Can Distribute Bibles At Pride Fest

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- An appeals court decision could allow a man who was barred from distributing Bibles at Twin Cities Pride to resume doing so unrestricted in Loring Park next year.

Last year, Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis denied Brian Johnson's request for an injunction that would force the Minneapolis parks board to allow him unrestricted access to festival grounds during the LGBT event, which are free and open to the public.

Though Johnson, of Hayward, Wis., said he had been distributing Bibles at the event since 1995 without issue, his application to set up a booth at the 2009 event was denied. He was then removed from the festival both that year and the year after.

The Minnesota Park & Recreation Board eventually decided to restrict the distribution of literature away from high congestion areas, dubbed "free-speech zones."

During the two most recent Twin Cities Pride events, he gave away Bibles after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit granted emergency relief during his appeal.

This week, the appeals court issued an opinion that reversed and remanded the earlier decision for further proceedings.

WEB EXTRA: Read the Full Decision (.PDF)

"In a public place during an event open to the public, Johnson has every right to share his views and contribute to the marketplace of ideas –- just like everyone else," said Johnson's lawyer Nate Kellum, from the Center for Religious Expression.

One judge issued a dissent, saying that the festival "has encountered problems with literature distributors in the past and has developed a sensible plan for managing those situations" and that the Minnesota Park & Recreation Board "has provided ample alternative channels of Communication."

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