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'Christianity is Sharing the Gospel': Judge Allows Wheaton College Students to Preach in Chicago Park

02-26-2020
Lurie Garden in Millennium Park located in Chicago, Illinois. (Image credit: Adobe Stock)
Lurie Garden in Millennium Park located in Chicago, Illinois. (Image credit: Adobe Stock)

Wheaton College students will continue to preach in and around Millennium Park in Chicago, IL, after a federal judge ruled in their favor on Thursday.  

As CBN News reported four Christian students sued the city last September after park security prohibited them from preaching in the park and on its nearby sidewalks. The students said the restrictions "severely hinder First Amendment rights for all within a public forum."

On Thursday, US District Judge Robert Blakey granted a preliminary injunction allowing anyone to preach and pass out religious literature in the park.

"Certainly, given the record here, the park fits the bill as a traditional public forum: it is free, open to the public, and serves as a public thoroughfare," Blakey wrote.

Matt Swart, Jeremy Chong, Gabriel Emerson, and Caeden Hood said they faced opposition from the park's security guards and city supervisors.

Outlined in their lawsuit, the students reported that Christopher B. Deans, a recreational operations manager handed them a set of new "rules" allowing speech activities to specific corners of the park, away from central areas park attractions.

"The newly revised rules still contain unconstitutional provisions which unduly restrict speech within a traditional public forum," the lawsuit reads.

John Mauck, the students' attorney with the Chicago-based firm Mauck & Baker, argued that there is a "huge amount of room" in the park and that students were not crowding anybody else out. 

"With street preaching, you are not going to be drowning anybody out because there are hundreds of people coming and going," he said.  "When you evangelize, you want to go where the people are." 

Mauck & Baker Law tweeted, "BREAKING NEWS: Our preliminary injunction was granted and Chicago may NOT enforce their Millennium Park rules barring free speech! #FridayFeeling #FreeSpeech."

The Family Research Council expressed their support for the students tweeting, "A win for First Amendment freedom! Congrats to the courageous student team at @WheatonCollege, who God is using to do great things for his kingdom! @MauckBaker".

The Christian students are grateful for the ability to share the gospel and have no animosity toward park or city officials.

"The end goal of the lawsuit was primarily about evangelism and getting the Gospel to people because we love them," Chong said.

"An essential part of Christianity is sharing the gospel," he added.

Members of the ministry meet in Millennium Park every Friday night at a spot they prefer next to the famous bean statue.

A status hearing in the case has been scheduled for March 4. 

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