2 Minn. preachers win access to holiday tour of lights

Thursday, December 6, 2012

DULUTH, Minn. — A federal judge has ruled in favor of two ministers who accused the city of Duluth of violating their constitutional rights by preventing them from preaching their Christian faith at an annual holiday event.

Steve Jankowski of Duluth and Peter Scott of Hibbing filed a motion in federal court last month in Minneapolis asking a judge to order the city to let them into the Bentleyville Tour of Lights.

The city denied the preachers access to the event at Bayfront Park despite a ruling last December in their favor. The Duluth News Tribune reported that the city restricted the ministers to a new “First Amendment zone” outside an entrance.

Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis wrote in his emergency order issued yesterday: “Courts have consistently held that a private event that takes place in a traditional public forum, and is free and open to the public, does not transform the nature of the forum.”

The preachers’ fight with the city dates back to November 2010, when police escorted the pair out of the display after the men refused to stop preaching.

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