Remember when Bradlee Dean did a school assembly in Dunkerton, Iowa and delivered what was really a sermon full of lies about gay people and lots of other things? Well he’s going back to the town now to give a talk at the city library, where he promises to clear up “misconceptions” about what he said (which is on video, so we know exactly what he said). Apparently, the city tried to keep him from speaking at the library as well:
The city reversed its position when officials with Liberty Counsel wrote the city, pointing out that the law did not allow officials to censor someone based on their opinions or perspective.
“Religious speech is not a First Amendment orphan – it is just as protected as any other speech,” said Richard Mast, an attorney with Liberty Council, in a statement. “When a government entity creates a forum ostensibly available to all, it can’t suddenly retract the welcome mat because it disagrees with the speaker’s message.”
He said what Dunkerton had done was “a clear-cut case of viewpoint discrimination.”
When Dean decided to book the library for a followup community event to clear up misunderstandings about the school event, which touched both on homosexuality and abortion, he found that the city initially agreed to rent to the library space available to the public.
But when a representative of Dean’s ministry drove to the library to sign the use agreement, the city officials said they had changed their minds and the offer of the library was withdrawn.
That’s when Liberty Counsel got involved and suggested the city make the facility available on a basis that did not include viewpoint discrimination.
And they’re right about that. The library is a designated public forum, which allows outside groups to rent it out and have meetings there. That means the library can’t discriminate on the basis of the viewpoint expressed in those meetings, even if it’s a KKK meeting. But Dean doesn’t seem to understand the difference between that and a school assembly:
“After inquiry by a national First Amendment/religious freedom organization, cooler heads prevailed, and the city agreed not to censor Bradlee Dean,” the group has announced. “The past distortion will be dealt with at a speaking event to take place during the Dunkerton Days celebration at the Dunkerton City Library on July 28th, 2012.”
“Agree with Bradlee or not, it matters to everyone when all government-sponsored speaking venues in an entire town, including the school district, refuse to rent meeting space to a group because of its beliefs and message,” said a statement from the ministry.
But a school assembly is not a public forum. Attendance was mandatory and it was sponsored by the school. That is an entirely different situation from the one involving the library renting space to the group.