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Minnesota

Judge bans Wisconsin man from distributing Bibles inside Twin Cities pride festival

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — A federal judge ruled this week that an anti-gay activist could not distribute Bibles at Twin Cities Pride this month.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Michael Davis issued a 41-page ruling Monday, prohibiting Brian Johnson of Hayward, Wisc., access to the Pride event, and said he will have to confine himself to a booth just outside of the event.

Brian Johnson

Johnson had sought an injunction to force the city’s parks board to allow him unrestricted access to festival grounds at Minneapolis’ Loring Park.

In his ruling, Davis said that Johnson’s constitutional challenge is not likely to succeed, adding that Johnson must confine himself to a booth just outside the event locale.

Nate Kellum, chief counsel with the Center for Religious Expression and Johnson’s lead attorney, issued a statement Monday indicating that other legal options are being explored, reported the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

“We are certainly disappointed in this ruling that fails to take Mr. Johnson’s First Amendment freedoms into account,” Kellum wrote. “Mr. Johnson should be allowed to hand out Bibles in a public area during a public festival and not be relegated to a ‘no pride’ zone where nobody bothers to go. Without an audience, Mr. Johnson is utterly deprived of his right to free speech.”

Johnson, an evangelical Christian and taxidermist, said in his lawsuit that he has distributed Bibles at the annual event since 1995 and that he had no problems until 2009, when the organization refused to rent him a booth after an exchange about his views on homosexuality.

Johnson and his family planned to walk through the 2009 event distributing Bibles, but festival officials told them they weren’t welcome, his suit says.

Festival planners sued the Park Board in 2010, seeking an injunction to prevent Johnson’s return to the festival, but lost when another federal judge ruled that restricting the content of Johnson’s speech would violate his rights under the First Amendment.

Last year, Twin Cities Pride and the Park Board reached a settlement agreement stipulating that the board would set up booths in the park but outside of the festival area for people excluded by the festival planners, requiring that all literature distributed inside the festival would be done from booths approved by Pride organizers.

David ruled on Monday that Johnson’s booth could be adjacent to the picnic and entertainment area, and was close enough to one of the park’s main entrances.

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58 more reader comments:

  1. Why do the wingnuts always look like they have an extra chromosome or two jingling around?

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 11:55am
  2. ^ If it looks like a duck…

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 11:56am
  3. I say let him in, and be bitchslaped the fuck out of there.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 11:57am
  4. Shoving religion in our lives….I would punch him. (Sorry,Atheist here)

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 11:57am
  5. That this was taken to court is so funny. Why does everyone want to rain on people’s parade…literally this time, except with Bibles.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 11:57am
  6. I agree with Bradley..as the old adage goes…F with a queen and GET KINGED!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 11:58am
  7. Wow, smart face.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 11:58am
  8. hmm…actually….he does have a right to do what he does….but i’d say fair is fair and LBGTQs should be allowed to distribute information and pamphlets at Christian fairs and events! But then I bet you suddenly the issue will be a right to privacy for the christian groups and 1st amendment shouldn’t be allowed at such functions! :P

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 11:59am
  9. Wow, he almost has one big eyeball.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:00pm
  10. I don’t like making fun of how people look but he looks like the electrical worker who appeared in the Family Guy episode when Peter wanted a pool. He looks like the guy with his eyes too close together who Peter ends up sketching…..just saying.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:00pm
  11. We have taken someone else’s freedom to go and fight for our freedom ….that’s why our LGBT community will never prevail in most states

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:00pm
  12. I’m guessing he has great difficulty with depth perception. lol

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:01pm
  13. I would just tell him no thank you I have one!! :-)

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:01pm
  14. “Mr. Johnson should be allowed to hand out Bibles in a public area during a public festival and not be relegated to a ‘no pride’ zone where nobody bothers to go. Without an audience, Mr. Johnson is utterly deprived of his right to free speech.”

    The Constitution grantees free speech, it does not guarantee an audience.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:02pm
  15. People can do what they want – as long as it doesn’t hurt, offend or harm anyone.
    My being gay, it doesn’t hurt or offend anyone. Someone distributting bibles at a pride fest will offend gays, straight, atheists and even Christians alike.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:02pm
  16. talk about close-set eyes… [shudder]

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:05pm
  17. He DOES look trans…lol he secretly wants to be one, but is afraid by his own religion!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:05pm
  18. There has to be more to this…was he blocking the route, screaming obscenities, fondling himself? If not he would seem to be well within his rights to hand out any leal thing he feels like handing out. You can’t end discrimination by discriminating.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:07pm
  19. What do you mean he looks trans?! What does a trans person look like? DO they have a uniform look? Do they all look the same? What criteria are you judging that by?

    But seriously, that’s a pretty transphobic comment.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:10pm
  20. Michael, the definiation of discriminating – putting some down, denying their rights, treating them as a second class citizen ect, is discrimination.
    Handing a bible to someone in the street is pushing your beliefs down their throat, basically telling them ”you need to repent because blah blah blah”
    Why couldn’t he hand them out when something major WASN’T going on? Why at the pride fest?

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:13pm
  21. What a waste of Bibles…

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:15pm
  22. He has the right to free speech, He does not have the right to a free audience that may not want to hear his distortion of scripture

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:17pm
  23. A lot of this commentary, i mean it’s okay to vent, but end of the day he looks like how his god wants him to look….so whatever…it’s not our problem. Not our fault. That said….he has a right to distribute his bibles. Sad but true. But this kinda gives people like Fox news “proof” that LBGTQs are “against” the constitution and ungodly and other such nonsense. What is funny, ironic, and disheartening is that if LBGTQs wanted a booth to hand out papers at a Christian convention, not only would it be refused, people would be indignant that how DARE those Ghays try to infringe on our safe spaces! Irony much?

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:17pm
  24. What a creepy looking man! *shudder

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:18pm
  25. Matthew 19:11 Jesus said gays are born that way. so let him give. them. out and then. show. him that verse

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:26pm
  26. He may have the right to distribute, and I have seen them distributed at pride events, the issue seems to lie in the conversation had that brought his thoughts on homosexuals to light, and that seems to be what triggered his expulsion. Pride is meant as a way for a community to come together to support each other, celebrate, or educate. If he has negative thoughts about gay people why should he be allowed to distribute at the event? If you were having a celebration would you want someone there not because of the celebration but because they stood against it? I wouldn’t and I applaud the decision. Pride is about community, not about discreetly spreading religious right wing propaganda, the gay community gets plenty of that already without it infringing on Pride. If he feels homosexuality is wrong then he has no right to be at the event itself.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:28pm
  27. Okay I am a gay man, and even this angers me. EVERYONE has their right to free speech. Just because in America we see him as the “bad guy” (As do I) He sees himself as doing whats right. It’s all about PERSPECTIVE people!! If we dont let him do what he wants, we are no better than them, not letting us do what we want. its ridiculous how people dont see that.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:29pm
  28. Ewwww that orangutan catchers mitt face & those tiny eyes just squished together. That’s creepy right there & I wouldn’t go to him even if he were distributing free $€X toys!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:32pm
  29. Lets not even get STARTED on the christian agenda…

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:40pm
  30. He looks like a creep.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:43pm
  31. good, keep that fictitious god-squad propaganda out. Who needs it. It is nothing but fables and fallacies. The Religious Reich needs to stop their oppression of others. Let them burn like their books should burn. FREE THOUGHT!!!FREE THOUGHT!!!FREE THOUGHT!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:46pm
  32. I would take the bible say thank you, add them to my collection of bibles I have. Then laugh at him because I would wonder can he even read the bible since his eyes are so close together!!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:49pm
  33. Totally inappropriate for one thing and This is pushing ones faith beliefs and I think it’s wrong. If one is interested, they go to a church or other sacred place, talk with the clergy or other religious person and sign up if interested. There are many belief systems and religion needs to stay a choice.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:51pm
  34. he is only doing his job as a christian which is spreading the word of the gospel, like Jesus and his days, its just that no one believes in God like that anymore

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 12:52pm
  35. NO Ashley…it is NOT his job. What makes Christians think they have the right to force their beliefs down everyone’s throats? If someone wants or needs spiritual guidance they can go to CHURCH. I would LOVE to see gays handing out pamphlets at a Christian organization- I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t go over well.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 1:02pm
  36. Oh and Ashley it is called FREEDOM OF RELIGION- do you know what that means? It means we all don’t have to share YOUR religious beliefs.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 1:04pm
  37. I’m gay, but I’m also a Christian- passing out Bibles isn’t “forcing their beliefs down your throat.” You don’t HAVE to take them. In my opinion, this man was doing no wrong. If he believes homosexuality is wrong- that’s fine, that’s his belief, as ridiculous as it may be. What makes us any better than the religious bigots if we ourselves become bigots and think no one can believe anything different from us?

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 1:10pm
  38. If this retards eyes were closer together it would be one eye!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 1:13pm
  39. Heh! I think that someone should be hired to follow him around with a trumpet so whatever he says can’t be heard.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 1:38pm
  40. Well if the pride festival has paid for the space to have pride….I would think they have a right invite who they want. It would be harassment if he distributes Bibles and is not wanted at that point. I would think that moving him to a no pride zone is acceptable at that point.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 1:48pm
  41. I would rip the pages out in front of him and tell him to go to hell.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 1:51pm
  42. You can keep your fairytale book mister, I’ve got plenty of Disney fairytales and Disney DVDs to keep me entertained!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 2:05pm
  43. Like we can’t defend ourselves from this nut? I say protect speech and we’ll protect ourselves.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 2:31pm
  44. He should have the right to do it. We all have free will to believe what we want. Read things & take them as we want. See things as we want. This man’s right to hand out the Bibles at a Pride event should not be decided by others. As we all as human beings have the right to love who we want. We as human being should be able to do as we want as all as we as human being aren’t hurting others. The mind is still free. So whether we agree or disagree on this matter, we all can agree on one thing, what we believe personally shouldn’t be decided by others. Our free will to think what we want should always remain free.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 2:54pm
  45. could his eyes be any closer together?

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 3:31pm
  46. Good! There’s a place and time for everything. Why don’t you go hand out Bibles in Disney World. See how far you get…

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 3:36pm
  47. He does not just pass out Bibles, he spews his hatred against LGBTQA’s. He was allowed inside the park for Twin Cities Pride to hand out free Bibles, then he starts spewing his hatred. It is him, his wife, and I believe his son. I as a gay man do not want to go to an LGBTQA event that is supposed to be a safe space for us to be spewed upon by a bigot and his family. This has been in and out of court for a number of years now….

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 4:46pm
  48. If this is a “free speech” issue, does he have the right to go into school classrooms during exams and hand out his Bibles? Can he go into the ladies room and hand them out? Can he go into a movie theater and preach the “word of God” loudly? Can he come into your living room and talk to you about Jesus? Can he enter a temple service and try to convert the worshippers? Your right to free speech doesn’t include interfering with other people’s lawful activities. He can distribute Bibles at a pride festival on the day when I can distribute pride literature at a church picnic.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 5:42pm
  49. hey buddy nanners :p

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 8:24pm
  50. HA HA!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 11:02pm
  51. Damn he looks like a psycho!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 11:03pm
  52. what’s with this ‘right’ not to be offended? Grow up! There is no such right. If there were, Gays could not be gay because it really is offensive to some people. But then again, Chartreuse is offensive to me, but I haven’t the right to tell people not to display it.

    Posted on Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 8:47am
  53. Also.. commenting upon the guy’s physical features? Must be only perfect people posting those comments. Yes, he looks unusual. But his message and his opinions and his rights are the issues. Should all unusual people be discriminated against and bullied? I thought that the folks that are for equality are for equality.. not just THEIRS, and not dependent upon looks.. (or else a whole lot of y’all would have NO rights, and you know who you are – without makeup, wigs, hair color, colored contacts…etc.. ad nauseum.)

    Posted on Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 8:51am
  54. some of you folks give ‘liberated sensibilities’ a bad name!

    Posted on Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 8:52am
  55. I never read Jesus saying he hated gays,lesbians,bisexuals,transgenders in the bible

    Posted on Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 3:15pm
  56. If one person is showing another person love in the way Jesus loved everyone, why would Jesus or god care?

    Posted on Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 3:15pm
  57. I just don’t understand why so many Christian’s going about saying Jesus hates the sin when Jesus did not even mention someone needing to have a certain sexuality. They are so hypocritical. Maybe Jesus made us have a different sexual presence to show that love does not discriminate and is beautiful between two that show great care and compassion for

    Posted on Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 3:19pm
  58. Just like Jesus we are treated unfairly and poorly because of our beliefs, but with time we will show the world that we all need to accept each other for our beautiful differences

    Posted on Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 3:20pm