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Restricting Speech in Minnesota

WOODBURY, MINNESOTA — The Center for Religious Expression has filed a lawsuit and motion for preliminary injunction in U.S. District Court on behalf of Dr. James Grinols against the City of Woodbury which has been unjustly preventing Dr. Grinols from exercising his First Amendment right to free speech in public parks and ways.   

Dr. Grinols enjoys giving speeches and engaging with other citizens in public areas about his religiously-based beliefs. But the City of Woodbury, outside of Minneapolis, has impeded his ability to share his views through an ordinance that compels him and other individual speakers to secure a permit before they can speak in the city’s parks, sidewalks and other public spaces.   

“This ordinance robs Dr. Grinols and other ordinary citizens of their First Amendment right to free speech,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “We are concerned whenever Americans are denied a voice in the public square.” 

When Dr. Grinols attempted to obtain the required permit to speak at a local park after being invited to be there by a local organization, his application was arbitrarily denied by the city. Without the permit, Dr. Grinols was effectively silenced.   

The ordinance contains no criteria, allowing the decision-maker to deny the permit for any reason or no reason at all.  And the scheme eliminates all spontaneous speech,” said Kellum. “Streets, sidewalks and public parks are quintessential public spaces that our courts have always seen as appropriate venues for free speech,” added Kellum. “Whenever a municipality enacts a law that places undue restrictions on speech in public spaces, citizens ought to be concerned.”

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