As a life long resident of Duluth, MN I am always excited to bring my kids to Bentleyville during the Christmas season.
Bentleyville is in the news again this Christmas season because Steve Jankowski and Peter Scott want to preach their religious views inside the light display and they claim the city of Duluth can’t restrict this first amendment right. Bentleyville is set up in a city park, the event is free and open to the public and Mr. Jankowski & Mr. Scott are fighting the ruling the city can’t close off such a large area to their first amendment rights.
The Duluth News Tribune wrote a very nice article with some more details if you would like to reference it. I have attached a link.
Do we ever hear of Mr. Jankowski and Mr. Scott preaching in Bayfront Park any other time of the year? Not that I can recall. I take my kids to Bayfront Park all the time to play on the playground & run around. I have never been approached by them to hear about their religious beliefs so why are they making a fuss about the park now? Probably because hundreds of thousands of people are coming to the park to enjoy Bentleyville NOT a church service. This is their chance to “preach” to a big crowd. I don’t think there is any need for them to go inside the park and “preach.” Stay out of the park Mr. Scott and Mr. Jankowski if you are going to “preach.” No other organizations are trying to go inside the park and do their business. The business of the park from now until Christmas is Bentleyville. No one is going to Bentleyville to hear messages from Mr. Scott and Mr. Jankowski.
I do believe in the first amendment but this certainly is over the top. What makes America great is everyone’s opportunity to practice any type of religion a person wants. However, there is a time and place. I agree with the way the city is handling this situation and one could certainly argue Mr. Jankowski and Mr. Scott are hurting their cause by dragging this whole situation through the legal system. Mr. Scott and Mr. Jankowski if you want people to hear your messages why don’t you invite them to your place of worship. Let people decide if they want to hear you, not force people to hear you in a place where people are clearly not coming to see and hear you.
I would say religion is very important in my life but like I mentioned before, I am a strong believer in sharing with people at the appropriate time and place.
Inside Bentleyville is not the time or place for people to preach. Let’s just enjoy the lights and remember all the hard work done by hundreds of volunteers to put on such a great light display.