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Sharing The Gospel Beside ‘The Bean’

by | Thu, Apr 27 2023

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The city of Chicago has agreed to pay A$300,000 to settle a case in which four Christian college students were banned from sharing the Gospel beside the famous Bean sculpture in the city centre’s Millennium Park.

Christianity Today reports the case pushed the city to change park regulations to allow evangelising and other public speech.

In 2018 the students from the Christian-run Wheaton College were ordered by park officials to stop preaching and handing out Gospel tracts.

The students would go to the city centre’s subways and street corners every Friday to start conversations, pass out tracts, or do street preaching.

Sometimes they would go to the popular Millennium Park and carry out their evangelising next to the Bean.

Security officials cited city rules against making speeches and passing out literature in the 10-hectare park and ordered them to stop.

The students argued that was a violation of their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion.

A Christian law firm sued on their behalf, and after four years of legal proceedings, the city finally agreed to settle.

During the hearing, one park official argued that the park was different because it was designed as a series of artistic “rooms” and not a “public forum” where the First Amendment would apply. Another official said ‘prohibited speech’ in the park depended on the “intent.”

That prompted to judge to rule that the park was enforcing “vague provisions in a discriminatory manner” and that the park was clearly a public forum protected by the First Amendment.

The park tried to get the students to settle earlier on the condition that evangelism would be prohibited beside the Bean.

The students refused and the park has since clarified that its rules do not “restrict First Amendment activity on the sidewalks throughout the park.”

“I’m thankful that the Gospel is going to be preached in Millennium Park again. We’re willing to work with the authorities. That’s fine. We just don’t want the proclamation of the Gospel to be hindered,” one of the students Caeden Hood told Christianity Today.

He has since graduated from Wheaton and is now studying at Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Two of the other students are also at a seminary.

Christianity Today reports most of the payout went towards covering legal fees, but the students will each receive A$7,500 in damages.