Chicago agrees to $205,000 settlement in case brought by students barred from sharing the Gospel in park

Thursday, April 20, 2023 | Tag Cloud

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by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) – The city of Chicago has agreed to pay $205,000 in settlement of a case brought by four Christian college students who were barred from sharing the Gospel in the city’s Millennium Park in 2018, Christianity Today (CT) reports.

The case arose when Caeden Hood, Matt Swart, Jeremy Chong, and Gabriel Emerso, all students at the Christian Wheaton College, were ordered by Chicago city park officials to stop preaching and handing out Gospel tracts at the Millenium Park and its famous “Bean” sculpture, CT reports. The officials cited city rules prohibiting “the making of speeches” and passing out of literature in most of the 24-acre park as reasons for the ban.

Believing their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion had been violated, the students reached out to Christian law firm Mauck & Baker, which is known for helping black storefront churches to stay in their buildings when landowners would seek to zone them out, CT reports. Attorney John Mauck took on the students’ case on a pro bono basis, and filed suit against the city of Chicago on their behalf in 2019.

After four years of legal proceedings, the city agreed on Wednesday to pay $205,000 settlement, including $5,000 each for the students as well as attorneys’ fees for the years-long litigation, CT reports. As part of the settlement, the parties agreed that evangelizing near the Bean would be allowed, but not handing out tracts. And, in areas where literature is allowed to be handed out, students can hand out tracts once but not again.

The city also changed its rules to clarify it does not “restrict First Amendment activity on the sidewalks throughout the park,” CT said.

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