A U.S. District Court judge has ruled the Iowa State Fair can bar a man from preaching his religious views near fair entrances. Fair officials alleged Jason Powell created a public safety hazard last year while demonstrating his beliefs in high-traffic areas inside the fairgrounds. Powell’s attorney, Nate Kellum from the Center for Religious Expression, says prohibiting Powell from standing in heavily populated areas infringes on his client’s right to free speech.
“Well, people stand in the context of a fair all the time.They’re standing looking at maps, they’re standing talking on their cell phone, they’re standing just wondering what (they’re) going to do next at the fair, they’re standing in line getting a corndog. And yet, they’re not letting Mr. Powell do so and share his message,” Kellum said.
In an injunction, the U.S. District Court in Des Moines has ruled Powell can stand in grassy areas on the fairgrounds away from heavy foot and vehicle traffic. Kellum said Powell will proceed with a lawsuit, claiming fair security officials and Iowa State Patrol troopers violated his First Amendment rights last year when they told him he’d be arrested for trespassing if he entered the fairgrounds again.
Kellum says, while the injunction may seem like a compromise, in practice – his client is still being denied the right of free speech.