Should a gay pride festival have to allow dissenting views at its own event?

Organizers of this weekend’s Twin Cities Pride festival want to keep a Christian evangelist from handing out literature there. Today’s Question: Should a gay pride festival have to allow dissenting views at its own event?

  • Alison

    Considering this is a public festival on public park space, yes. Of course the participants also have the right to counter this evangelist, which should be easy to do given Jesus’ message was a gospel of love, not hate.

  • Mike

    While yes, the evangelist should be allowed to share his opinion against gays, he should not be allowed to do it in the middle of the gathering where gays and lesbians are being celebrated. Outside the venue is another matter–and people can simply ignore him.

  • Bruce Sikkema

    For at least ten years now, there has been a “Pro-Life” demonstrator, well, actually booth operator, in the park*. I’ve forgotten his name, but he lives near Hayward, Wisc., and makes his living, so he says, by making chain saw carvings.

    * Unplanned pregnancies among gay men and lesbians are extremely rare.

  • Duane

    Considering that gay rights supporters are have the right in our society to peaceful assembly and protest in a public space, I can see no reason why people with opposing views cannot also express opinions in a public space. Equal rights apply to everyone, not just the politically correct

  • Tobey

    I worked DC PRIDE this year… FOR A CHURCH!!!… we are UCC and we and 24 other churches, temples, and mosques (yes mosques) were all warmly welcomed to preach god’s message of love (right at the front of the vendors booths)…we paid for our space… they vetted us to make sure our message coincided with theirs for both the parade and festival…

    They closed down 5 blocks of pennsylvania Ave for the festival…and during the day, more than one person saw the sign on our booth and turned right around muttering “it a church” and that is ok… they have probably been hurt by another church…

    There were even about 10 protesters outside the festival on the sidewalks, but the police kept them in their area respecting their right to be there… and ours…

    There is a freedom of speech guarantee, but by renting out the whole park to the PRIDE for money, the park is no longer public space…

    And no one is saying they can’t say what they want or hand out bibles… there are plenty of avenues to do so within 50 feet of the event…

    But people would raise holy hell if they paid money to secure a spot for a quite little wedding and a bunch of us fairies started smooching in the back row…

  • Gary F

    Can the Boy Scouts of America hold their meetings in public buildings such as public schools and city halls?

  • Gary F
  • Fight4Equality

    The so-called argument here is that the “Christian” Evangelist wants to be able to hand out bibles and preach the gospel at a Pride Event and feels that it is a public place and he should be allowed to do so. Yes, it is a public space but it is being rented for the day by the Pride group and they should have the right to monitor their event. They are renting out booth space to vendors, have him apply to rent a booth. This would be like a family renting out picnic space and anyone showing up and eating the food. It is not about freedom of speech. Regardless of how sugar coated this evangelist is trying to make it he is a HOSTILE person attempting to cause a disruption at an event that is set aside for a specific group. This is a tactic that is always used by these type of people. It has to stop, they can no longer hide behind their “religion”, because in their minds this gives them the right to do what ever they want when ever they want. They are spreading HATE, call a spade a spade and wake up people!

  • Aaron

    Freedom of Speech I agree with, but even if they did let him in the park, he wouldn’t last a half hour until a riot broke out,

  • Garyf

    Then why were so many people allowed to create a “hostile” environment at the RNC two years ago?

  • Gary F
  • Jeff

    If gays can be excluded from “private” events such as St Patrick’s day parades, and “private” organizations such as the Boy Scouts, then they should have the right to select who the choose to associate.

  • Amy

    Absolutely not! The GLBT community already deals with enough social stigma still (unfortunately). They don’t need some wack job there preaching anti-gay messages. Let the dissenters set up their booth across the street and preach to… well…. themselves.

  • Dana C

    When he pays for the rental of the park for the day, he can do and say whatever he wants. he comes every year and pretends to be a christian, but he yells and screams at people and is a very disturbed person once the cameras are off. until he pays for the park, he has no right to be there.

  • Sandra

    Since the Gay Pride Festival is required to pay to use the park facilities, the anti-gay evangelist should not be allowed to express his hate speech inside the festival grounds. He can certainly express them outside the park.

  • Sarah

    This man certainly has his right to his opinion and has the right to espouse his opinion. However, there are a few things that I think need to be considered:

    This is an event to promote PRIDE in the LGBT community that has been beaten down (frequently by the church).

    The Pride organization has paid to rent this park. They charge for people to display, sell, and advocate to help pay for the rent. The people who pay for space also have to sign an agreement that they will not do or say anything anti-LGBT. As I understand it, this guy had a booth last year and signed the agreement and then went against the agreement. There are many religious organizations at PRIDE who have no problem signing the agreement and sticking to the agreement.

    This is a party, not a rally. We are gathering not to promote but to celebrate – who wants someone at their party telling them that they are horrible people or that they are sinning because of who they love?

    I for one do not want PRIDE in the news because of violence – has the Parks Commission really considered the safety of this man? Do they really want the possible outcomes of this decision?

    This man has every right to his opinion but I think it is a bad idea for this guy to have the right to walk into the middle of our party and condemn us. He certainly has the right to espouse his hate and fear from the sidewalk

  • Carol

    Ideally individuals would have the right to express their opinions–to pass out fliers, etc.–at any event. But I can’t imagine that conservative Christian groups would allow a gay pride activist (or gay marriage activist) to hand out fliers at their events. I agree with the commentor who suggests that dissenters set up booths outside the events, across the street, wherever.

  • Alli

    Would anyone at Pride actually listen to a hate-filled evangelist or take a bible from one? I can’t figure out why a missionary would even want to try.

  • Kathryn

    If he is there to quietly pass out Bibles and religiuos materials then he could be there, If he is there to disrupt and be disrespectful to participants then, no he should not be allowed to be there. Being he was arrested last year I doubt he would be respectful. Any group that holds a public festival should not have to tolerate disruptive behavior by an outsider.

  • Noel

    Heck NO! If the park was rented out by a church for a day long event we would not be allowed to show up handing out literature about how Churchs should accept us because we are all God’s children. Or worse yet, we could hand out literature about how to follow your inner gayness! It’s terrible that there are double standards in our society.

  • Thomas

    While I’m both a gay man and a firm believer in freedom of speech, I cannot get over the following facts when considering this weekends pride fesitival and the zealous preacher who passes out bibles. In the Supreme Court decision of Hurley v. Irsih American GLBT Group of Boston the Supreme court held that the first amendment is violated by requiring private parade sponsors to include among the march a group imparting a message that the organizers do not wish to express. This holding of expressive association was further affirmed in Boy Scouts v. Dale, wherein the Boy Scouts of America are free to expel gay people. My point in bringing this up is that the festival serves as not only a celebration, but also a safe space for us to gather and not fear discrimination. Just this past week a good friend of mine was beaten as he left hennipen and this past winter I had a gentleman ask if my make-up would freeze outside a bar on Grand (not that it matters, but I wasn’t wearing any.) In a time and place where I have to evaluate where I can go and be free to express myself, this festival serves as a safe space to remind me and many others that we are here and on equal footing with those who would discriminate against us. Given all this, perhaps keeping him from the festival grounds (he’s allowed to hand out bibles across the street) prevents him from spreading his message that “gays are sinners,” but at minimum, all would have to agree that our prohibition is at least animated by good intentions. And so long as it remains the official policy to kick LGBT individuals out of the armed forces and legal to deny us equal access to a multitude of governmental and private sector institutions, I say keep him from the park, and I’ll ignore him across the street. I will not stand for an instance in which we are inclusive of people who tell us our love is wrong and denied inclusiveness in every other institution in this country.

  • Khatti

    At a festival? No. If this was some sort of specific political gathering where some sort of policy was being decided upon that would be one thing. That would be a matter of, “Allowing others to do onto you as you damn well know you would do onto them!”

    But a festival? No.

  • Mindy

    If it is done peacefully and respectfully in a public location, I believe that there is the freedom of speech issue that needs to be protected.

    I am becoming of the persuasion that freedom of speech and religion is eroding for Christians in the United States. See the following video clip.

  • William

    Absolutely not. If it were a public event, then it would be acceptable. However, since the public land is rented (paid for) its no longer public space, at least temporarily. Its like putting money in a parking meter; the parking space is owned and maintained as public space, but when someone puts their money into that meter, it temporarily becomes private space.

  • James

    Gay people should not have any special rights.


  • Alison

    I would like to change my early morning comment. Since it appears that the park space has been rented to the organization putting on the event, they should be allowed to decide whether this hate filled message can be spread at their festival. The hypocrite can spread his un-Christian message from across the street.

  • Gerald Myking

    Inciting a riot, disturbing the peace, and harrassment are all violations of the law and have nothing to do with free speech. Considering this mans history there is every reason to believe that is his intent.

  • Ryan Simatic

    In Hurley v. Irish American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston, the Supreme Court decided that private citizens organizing a public event may not be compelled by the state to include groups who impart a message that the organizers do not want to be included.

    Surely, anti-gay groups would not want homosexuals to have the right to force their presence in every public event. Private groups organizing public events have the right to control the message they want to portray, and the exclusion of homosexuals may be part of that message.

    It’s time for these anti-gay groups to face the other side of that coin. If other groups can exclude homosexuals under the pretext of controlling their message (or having the freedom of speech to say what they want to say), then homosexual groups can rightly exclude anti-gay groups who mean to criticize and undermine homosexuality.

  • T

    “Gay people should not have any special rights.”

    This is not about special rights. It’s a festival. BTW-People are looking for EQUAL rights. And that definitely has not occurred.

  • Bill A.

    What I’m confused about is, why are these holier than thou’s getting in a twist over somthing that garners only 5 mentions in the entire bible? Both new and old combined. You would think they would have bigger fish to fry what with all the murder, incest and adutery going on.

    My 2 cents.

  • Jon

    Would an evangelical group allow a gay/les demonstrator to solicit during one of its gathering.

    Ideally, the pride group should be allowed to come together without being harassed — but the bible guy has the right to be there.

    The bible guy will not impact the pride folks thinking and they will not impact his thinking.

    Just background noise.

  • Kit Donnelly

    Give him a booth of his very own! It may sound crazy, but there are a number of reasons why doing so is in the best interests of the festival organizers, the GLBT community, and public at large.

    First, if you give Mr. Johnson his own booth, then you can force him to help clean up after the event.

    Second, allowing Mr. Johnson to operate his own booth furthers the message of acceptance and tolerance that this festival is all about. True, Mr. Johnson does not share that sentiment. But how many people are going to see this guy talking and say to themselves, “Wow, this guy really has a number of very well thought-out ideas”? Almost nobody. The only people who might be inclined to agree with this guy surely avoid these events, lest they surrender their souls to eternal damnation.

    Third, by putting Mr. Johnson “on display”, the public can see first-hand how destructive and scary people like him (and his counterparts in government) really are. An unmistakable contrast would emerge. On the one side you have intolerant, hate-spewing, nut-job evangelism (it doesn’t have to be evangelism, but this guy is an evangelist so, whatever); on the other side you have a group that is willing to accept the views of others, even if those views represent the very thing that the group has been battling for decades.

    Finally, by making such a big deal out if this, you are already giving this guy more attention than he deserves. Those who believe what Mr. Johnson believes are simply on the wrong side of history. Their ideology of hate and intolerance for homosexuals will putter along for a few more decades, much like an old car, until eventually parts start falling off and vital elements of the machine grow old and die.

    So, for God’s sake, give him a booth. Tell him not to make too big of a scene. And when it’s all over, give him a trash bag and one of those trash pincher things and tell him to get to work.

  • Heather

    NO. Absolutely not. No-brainer. And this argument? — “I am becoming of the persuasion that freedom of speech and religion is eroding for Christians in the United States. See the following video clip.” — WAAAAAH. Weren’t gay marchers excluded from a St. Patrick’s Day parade a few years ago? Ummmm…. Boy Scouts, anybody? If you don’t like discrimination, you need to end it for EVERYONE.

  • Curt Coolman

    If the Boy Scouts don’t have to allow homosexuals, then the homosexuals don’t have to allow Boy Scouts (aka homophobes).

  • Joe

    While I completely disagree with what he is saying I do agree that he has the right to protest in this public space. It shouldn’t matter if it is a “specific gathering” of people, if the republican convention was here and green party protesters wanted to…oh, maybe there is somewhat of a double standard…nevermind.

  • Helene

    While the organizers of the event have the right to deny Brian Johnson a booth at the festival and with it the right to hand out materials, the First Amendment guarantees Mr. Johnson the right to speak his opinion at the event, welcome or not. Should he try to force any materials onto his passers or his conduct turn into harassment, the police has the right to remove him from the event.

    My personal opinion: Mr. Johnson is wasting his time and needs to work on his interpretation of Bible text. I wish the media would dedicate more time and coverage to more important equal-rights issues.

  • Neil Chudgar

    I was on the side of Mr. Johnson until I read the 1995 Supreme Court decision the Pride organizers are citing. The idea of this decision, as I understand it, is that the state cannot compel an organization to allow somebody to contradict its own message during its own parade. The decision, Justice Souter wrote, “rests not on any particular view about [any particular] message but on the Nation’s commitment to protect freedom of speech.” That’s what’s at stake here, too: it’s in everybody’s interest for organizations to be able to express their own particular views in public, and sometimes that means asking those with dissenting views not to interfere with that expression. If Mr. Johnson and his supporters were to organize their own parade, the 1995 Supreme Court decision would support them in sidelining queer activists — just as it supports this year’s Pride organizers in sidelining Mr. Johnson.

  • S

    I’m sure the gay rights folks would be screaming bloody murder if THEY were not allowed to distribute materials and protest at a gathering of folks they disagree with, so why can’t others distribute at their event? Seems like a double standard to me.

  • Cary

    I believe the Gay Pride Festival is taking place in Minneapolis, which is located in Minnesota, and therefore within the bounds of the US. Freedom of speech is arguably the most important right that we have, so of course dissenting views should be allowed.

    There are still limits – I would have an issue if they were to be allowed a bullhorn to shout over participants, or are obviously disruptive to people attending who don’t want to hear their message.

    Unfortunately, after going to enough Gay Pride events with protesters present, I can be reasonably certain that this group will be irrational, irresponsible zealots. They will be ignored by 99.9% of those present.

  • Kirk D. Van Dorn


    1.) Remove the word “GAY” from the discussion. It is irrelevant.

    2.) Treat the situation as you would for ANY group.

  • Susan

    For comparison’s sake, let’s say instead of a gay pride festival, this was an African-American pride festival. Should they be forced to give a space to white supremacists? The KKK? Obviously not. This is no different.

    The Pride organizers have rented the space for the event, which means that for the duration of the event, the park is not a public space. It is a private space, it’s just not enclosed. They should have the right to refuse entry to anyone they choose, for any reason they choose. Just as if they had rented a building for their private use.

  • jeff

    I say rent the talibangelist a booth. Make him sign an agreement as to what he can and can’t do. No loud yelling, no loud music, and he can’t hawk his wares, flyers, bibles, opinions, etc. outside his booth. Charge him the same as everyone.

    And then “rent the booths” on either side of him out and place BIG BIG signs on either side of him. One could say “Teabagging for Christ” with a big arrow his way and the other could say “I love children, but for some reason the cops said I couldn’t go within 500 yards of schoolyards anymore. Praise Jesus.” Or words to that effect.

    And if he doesn’t like it he can always leave.

    But get his money. Kind of a dumbass tax.

  • Tobey

    The problem in this instance is that in the past they did let him rent a booth during the festival and he violated the rules.

    DCPride does have protesters with bullhorns that shout anti-gay slogans and talk about how we are gonna burn…but they do it outside the area marked off and rented by the city…

    No one is saying he can’t say what he wants, but with all situations, he must do it in accordance with the local ruling ordinances…

    In this instance, it is on the sidewalk out side of the event that rented an area to privatize it for their use…

    As for the dumba** tax… yeah his money was probably nice to pay for a portapot or two, but again he violated his contract and harassed festival goers after being told to step away…

    The city chose not try him, the local parks department caved for fear of a lawsuit, and while he is getting his 15 mins of fame, anytime they hear the name “brian johnson” they will think of his name sake…

  • Susanne

    I do not believe this man should be given a permit to be in the park. Pride has paid fees to use the park for this event and this man’s sole purpose is to disrupt the event.

    Disruptive people are regularly removed from public events. So why would the Park Commission even consider giving a permit to someone whose sole intention is to cause disruption?

  • Brenda

    No way! I don’t want atheists at my Catholic parish festival, either!

  • Shannon

    Would a Packer fan be allowed at a Vikings rally? The better question is why does he want to be there? Does he realize his goal is like asking a dog to be a cat?

  • Rebecca

    The pride festival should be able to choose which groups they want to sell a booth to and who they do not. It is absurd the Mr. Johnson would want to waste his time preaching to people who do not care to hear his message. Why would anyone want to go where they are not welcome? Let the pride festival goers have fun and not be subjected to a bigot who cares more about his message than about the people he claims to want to ‘save’.

  • Joy (Rev.)

    Sure,but this guy claims the Bible to justify his bigotry. The bible speaks to unhealthy, abusive and dishonest relationships. This occurrs in all sorts of pairings. The word “homosexual” is a made up word from the 1880’s and does not occur in the original text. The Bible is not a book of hate – EVER !

  • Anna

    Ditto Kit – Give him a booth

    I highly doubt anyone there is going to give him the time of day.

    Giving him a booth will also give him exposure to all of the kind, wonderful GLBTQ and allied people within the Twin Cities he feels inclined to make into charactertures. Maybe his mind, or at least approach, will be changed?

    If not, if he does become rowdy or disrespectful or anything else, then he can be removed by the police, end of story.

  • anachronon

    Would this question ever be asked of a Christian church that refused to allow a Satanist on its pulpit?

    Would this question ever be asked of a Tea Party meeting that refused to allow Joe Biden from presenting?

    Would this question ever be asked of a Shrine Circus event that refused to allow a pedophile from selling cotton candy from a snack-stand?

    The very act of asking the question casts aspersion on the group – as if they were doing something wrong where other groups would be considered “in the right” to prohibit strongly opposing viewpoints in a venue with specific intent.

  • carol

    Bottom line, yes, he should be allowed to be there. Free speech is the reason we’re allowed to have a festival. The sad part is that we’re there to celebrate our lives and this man is there to do the opposite and induce shame.

  • Mary

    There are a number of important facts missing from this question. The Johnson’s have a history of arrests for disturbing the peace at GLBT events. Their goal is to disrupt, promote discrimination and worse for these citizens. This anti-gay obsession gives license to other like-minded folks to act in ways that are harmful to GLBT folks and their families. It’s serious business. They are welcome to distribute their literature (that many view as hate speech) at the perimeter. That’s not enough for them. Their motives are suspect and a threat.

  • Dana

    The controversy is over whether homosexuality is a sin. One poster said the word “homosexual” doesn’t appear in the Bible. Well there are many modern English words no found in Scripture but God clearly states homosexuality is a sin. See Romans 1:27. Don’t like it? Don’t believe it? Tough. Answer to God on your judgment day. It is what it is. Now as for this guy from Wis., I don’t think he should be allowed in the area which the Priders paid money to reserve. If a group pays money to reserve a park or area of it, then they should be given what they paid for and let them pick who they want in there. However, at the perimeter of said park or leased area of a park, Wis. Guy can speak the Truth of the Word boldly and loud. It’s his First Amendment right.

  • Dennis

    The Johnsons want to be provocative and their presence would be akin to allowing the KKK at a Juneteenth celebration or a constitutional scholar at a Tea Party gathering.

  • Sue de Nim

    Hate-spewers of all sorts only hurt their own causes by their rants. That’s true of both Bible-thumpers shouting “God hates fags!” and GLBT activists diagnosing those who disagree with them as having a mental illness (“homophobia”). Such rhetoric convinces no one and only hardens hearts. Under the logic of what the Supreme Court decided about the Boy Scouts and the Irish paraders, the organizers of this event are within their rights to exclude Mr. Johnson. By excluding him, I think they’re actually doing him a kindness, preventing him from making a quite so big a fool of himself as he would if he had a booth.

  • Sure they should, just as soon as gay pride floats are allowed at church functions….

  • Kirk D. Van Dorn

    This Bible-Thumper has actually done the GLBT Community a HUGE favor. Now GLBTA folk cannot be excluded from peacefully handing out THEIR literature at any of the fundamentalist events, including “fellowship hour ” after their church services.

    If police try to remove them, the matter has already been settled in their favor.

    I hope that those attending the Pride event make use of their new freedom and spead out through the entire Twin Cities area on Sunday morning.