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Minn. City Stops Christians from Evangelizing at Christmas Lighting Event

ICC Note: Three Christians were told they would be arrested if they insisted on passing out fliers and sharing their faith with attendees of a holiday lighting event in Minnesota. The threat of arrest came despite an injunction filed with the city of Duluth blocking an early ban put in place by the city on religious messages during the event, which is held in a public park.

11/23/2012 United States (Christian Post) - An emergency motion was filed against the City of Duluth, Minn., earlier this week after the city continued to deny Christians the right to share their faith at a holiday lighting event that is held annually in a public park.

"The government cannot ban the First Amendment in a public park just because event officials don't like the message that a person is sharing," Jonathan Scruggs, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) legal counsel, said in statement. Scruggs is serving as co-counsel in the case with Nate Kellum of the Center for Religious Expression.

"The court ordered the city to respect the First Amendment, but it is not doing so," said Scruggs. "We are therefore asking the court to enforce its order and hold the city in contempt. It has disregarded both the court's order and what the order sought to protect: the constitutionally protected freedom of citizens to engage in non-disruptive speech in a public place."

Steve Jankowski, a minister, and three of his friends went to Bayfront Festival Park to share their faith and pass out Christian literature during opening day of the Bentleyville Tour of Lights event on Nov. 17. They were eventually asked by a police officer to leave, and were told they could only share their faith in a designated area outside of the event, despite a court order from December 2011 that says otherwise.

The friends left the park after being told they could be arrested for trespassing, despite having conducted themselves in a non-disruptive manner.

In a video clip captured by one of the friends, the officer said the rented park was considered "private property" for use by the nonprofit Tour of Lights organization only.

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