A federal judge says the Twin Cities Pride Festival cannot prevent a Wisconsin man from passing out Bibles and discussing his views against homosexuality at this weekend's event in Minneapolis.
Festival organizers had asked Judge John Tunheim for a temporary restraining order against Brian Johnson, of Hayward, Wis.
They had argued that they should have the right to prevent Johnson from passing out literature or displaying signs during the gay pride event, because they're leasing Loring Park for the weekend.
But Tunheim, in an order Friday, said the park is a public forum, so Johnson's free-speech rights must be honored. He says Johnson is entitled to speak and hand out literature as long as he remains undisruptive.
Johnson has said that he's a born-again Christian and that he thinks homosexuality is a sin.
In previous years, Johnson reserved a booth at the festival, but organizers have denied him a permit for the last two years.
Johnson was arrested at last year's event, and organizers wanted to add some additional restrictions.
Twin Cities Pride organizers asked the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to further restrict Johnson's activities. But the board declined, citing free speech concerns. And Judge Tunheim agreed with the park board's decision.
In his ruling, Tunheim said that the Pride festival organizers could set up a "free speech zone" at the event -- a designated area where anyone could hand out Bibles or religious tracts or whatever they wanted, similar to the zones that are set up at political conventions and the like.
But Pride organizers have rejected that option, according to Jim Kelley, a former president of the event. Kelley said organizers met with the Minneapolis Park Board Friday afternoon and decided it wasn't a workable solution.
"Some of the issues are the fact that you need to establish the [free speech zones] and you need to monitor them, and to make sure that the people in the zones and outside of the zones are staying safe," said Kelley. "I think there probably was just not enough time to do a good job on establishing those."
Brian Johnson is being represented by Nate Kellum, an attorney who works for the Alliance Defense Fund in Nashville. That organization does legal work for conservative and Christian causes.
Kellum told me that his client is very happy that he won't be subject to a restraining order, and that he looks forward to talking to people at the Festival this weekend.
Beyond that, Kellum said Johnson is not commenting publicly on the case at this point, because there's likely going to be more legal action over the issue after the Pride Festival is over.
The event runs all day Saturday and Sunday at Loring Park in Minneapolis.