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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
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Christian Activist Tossed From Pride Festival Suit

(CN) - An evangelical Christian can no longer intervene in a lawsuit that might limit him from spreading an anti-gay message at this summer's annual Twin Cities Pride festival, a federal judge in Minneapolis ruled.

For the last 16 years, Brian Johnson has attended the festival in Loring Park, Minn., to share his views on Christianity and homosexuality. Claiming that Johnson harasses festival-goers and tells them they will go to hell for being gay, the nonprofit that sponsors Twin Cities Pride sued the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for an injunction against Johnson last year.

One year earlier, Twin Cities Pride had rejected Johnson's application for a permit to host a booth at the 2009 festival, as he had for the previous 11 years. Without a permit that year, police arrested Johnson for trespassing.

U.S. District Judge John Tunheim let Johnson intervene in the lawsuit and ultimately rejected the nonprofit's request for a restraining order against Johnson.

"The court found that tension existed between Twin Cities Pride's right to tailor the expressive content of the Festival and Johnson's right to express his personal views in a public forum," Tunheim wrote, describing that earlier ruling.

Johnson, who subsequently filed for summary judgment against the nonprofit, reportedly attended the 2010 festival and handed out Bibles without incident.

This past fall, with the 2011 festival on the horizon, Twin Cities Pride filed an amended complaint that removed any mention of Johnson and instead seeks leave to designate free-speech zones at the festival that would be monitored by park officers.

Tunheim rejected Johnson's motion for summary judgment last week and dismissed him as an intervenor, noting that he could have amended his motion after the group amended its complaint.

"The Court finds that, in these circumstances, Johnson's motion may not be considered an attack on the allegations contained in the amended complaint ... [and] is therefore moot," Tunheim wrote on April 4.

Tunheim has not yet ruled on Johnson's request for reconsideration. This year's 39th annual Twin Cities Pride festival is scheduled for June 25 and 26.

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