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8th Circuit: Festival's Bible Distribution Rules Too Strict E-mail
Written by Don Byrd   
Thursday, 12 September 2013

The 8th Circuit yesterday sided with a plaintiff who sought to distribute Bibles at the Twin Cities Pride Festival in Minnesota. Officials required him to distribute materials in an unmarked canopy on the outskirts of the festival area, prompting him to request an injunction on First Amendment grounds. The trial court refused the injunction request, but the 8th Circuit's decision yesterday reverses that ruling, ordering the lower court to enter a preliminary injunction pending trial.

Here are some highlights from the ruling:

The Board contends that restricting literature distribution to booths during the Festival is narrowly tailored to serve its significant interest in maintaining the orderly flow of people, providing access for security and emergency vehicles, and facilitating the activities of the participants of the Festival.
In the abstract, controlling crowds can constitute a significant governmental interest that bears directly on public safety. We disagree with the district court, however, that the Board made a satisfactory showing that the literature distribution regulation is narrowly tailored to serve that interest in this instance.
The Board presented little evidence that forbidding literature distribution furthers a significant governmental interest at the Festival. The Board’s reliance on the assertion by Twin Cities Pride’s Executive Director that literature distribution causes congestion is insufficient. 
Distributing Bibles or other religious materials, the court concluded, causes no more congestion than allowing street performers and others designed to draw a crowd, which the festival apparently allowed. The court ordered the issuance of an injunction against enforcement of this regulation against the plaintiff.
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