1st Amendment May Not Hold Water In Lawsuit Against City

By KBJR News 1

November 29, 2011 Updated Nov 29, 2011 at 6:45 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northlands NewsCenter)
-- Freedom of speech is the focus of concern in a lawsuit against the city of Duluth.

Two Christian preachers are suing the city for kicking them out of Bentleyville Tour of Lights.

According to Ken Butler, attorney for Bentleyville, the land is not public when Bentleyville is leasing the park.

For example you can't just walk around the Bayfront Festival Park with an alcoholic drink, but during Bluefest, they pay the insurance, right the rules, and pay all the fees, the land this theirs at the time.

According to Butler, the government has no role in this case of infringing on the preachers first amendment rights.

"The plaintiffs need the intervention of state action in order to prevail in the case of a first amendment right. Because again, an individual cannot infringe on another individuals first amendment right of free expression for example"

The first amendment only deals with the government's interference with an individual's right of free speech.

And since Bentleyville is the lease holder of the Bayfront Festival Park, they have the say who is allowed in.

They said Bentleyville is not a public forum for debate and they just want people to enjoy the light display without being bothered.

City Attorney Gunner Johnson said today that the city will vigorously defend themselves on this issue.

They also said that they do get a lot of these types of lawsuits and settling could be an option if it's cheaper than perusing the case.

The city will be filing an answer soon.

Written for the web by: Zach Vavricka
zvavricka@northlandsnewscenter.com