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Preachers Back in Bentleyville While Legal Battle Continues

Posted at: 12/13/2012 10:43 PM
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

Duluth city councilors discussed the free speech lawsuit on Thursday, and city administrators said the case is far from over.

Nathan Bentley held a thank you dinner for sponsors of Bentleyville on Thursday. The recent court ruling bothered him on the typically happy occasion.

“We don't believe Bentleyville should be a stage for anyone's agenda,” Bentley said.

Two preachers were removed from Bayfront Park in 2010 after their presence disturbed some guests. The city created a “First Amendment Zone” outside the park to accommodate anyone wishing to express free speech.

Last week a federal judge ruled that excluding the two preachers violated their free speech rights, and the free speech zone has been removed.

Bentley is unsure of how that ruling will affect the future of Bentleyville. He said the event's board of directors and city officials will meet after this season to discuss how to move forward.

The city council also discussed the murky legal battle on Thursday.

“The fact that two men were physically removed from one of our parks under the threat of being arrested for trespassing is a serious nature,” Councilor Jim Stauber said.

Councilors Jim Stauber and Garry Krause said the city council should have been involved in policy moves like this.

But the event's creator doesn't want distractions for his guests.

“It's disturbing that people choose to come in and make a mockery out of this great community event. It's bothersome,' Bently said. “Bentleyville is supposed to be a magical expreience of light and families.”

The case will continue in the courtroom. A temporary injunction is what is allowing the preachers into Bentleyville. A final ruling is still coming, which means the case isn't over yet for the city either.