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Court Victory For Farrakhan

A lawsuit accusing the Nation of Islam of discrimination for barring women from a public speech by leader Louis Farrakhan was dismissed Monday.

Middlesex Superior Court Judge Regina Quinlan ruled that the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of religion and freedom of assembly protected the Nation of Islam.

Antiques dealer Marceline Donaldson claimed her civil rights were violated when she was turned away at the door of the Boston's city-owned Strand Theater on March 10, 1994.

Her husband, Robert Bennett, was told he could enter the 1,400-seat theater where Farrakhan was speaking about black-on-black violence, but a Nation of Islam security guard told Donaldson she could not.

Donaldson, who is black and said she is a former civil rights activist, testified last Wednesday that "being turned away at the door by a black man was overwhelming. When he moved me aside, my blood pressure started to go up."

She sought unspecified damages from Farrakhan, the Chicago-based Nation of Islam and minister Don Muhammad, the head of the Nation of Islam mosque in Boston, which sponsored the event.

"I feel vindicated," Muhammad said after the decision.

Defense lawyer Wilbur P. Edwards Jr. filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit after the plaintiffs rested their case. He claimed the defendants had the right to hold a religious meeting.

Quinlan issued her ruling from the bench Monday morning.

During the trial, a 14-person jury also saw a tape of parts of Farrakhan's speech that night. Farrakhan told the crowd that he merely wanted to talk to a group of black men, but women outside the theater "were very, very disturbed because they wanted to see their brothers."

"All of a sudden, I'm offending some law," he said, his voice building as the crowd roared. "What law am I offending?"

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