Pride Parade tries to block bible thumper

Thu. June 24, 2010 10:30 PM by News Staff

Minneapolis - A judge is expected to rule Friday on whether an anti-gay evangelist from Wisconsin can hand out bibles during the Twin Cities Pride celebration in Minneapolis on Saturday.

The organizers of the event, the third largest LGBT pride celebration in the country, denied Brian Johnson a vendor's permit.

Johnson has a long history with the Twin Cities Pride festival. For years, he had a vendor's permit and handed out anti-gay literature and bibles.

But in 2009, they refused to give him a permit. He showed up anyway and they called the cops. He and two of his relatives were arrested, but charges were dropped.

This year, Pride attorneys filed a motion for an emergency restraining order against Johnson on the grounds that "anarchy" might ensue if he's allowed to hand out materials to the 200,000 attendees without a permit.

Organizers also don't want attendees to think they actually approve of Johnson's anti-gay message.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that attorneys for the Minneapolis Park and Rec Board say denying Johnson a permit denies him his First Amendment rights.

"This is helpful from our standpoint because we're content neutral," John Erwin, President of Minneapolis Park Board told WCCO. "And we want to have some sort of guidance in this situation as far as what's permissible and what's not."

"It's a big party," said Pride attorney Eileen Scallen. "We invite everybody, including Mr. Johnson, his family and friends. We just want everybody to behave at our party."