Evangelist files speech lawsuit against SDSM&T

2012-11-08T11:07:00Z 2012-11-08T14:42:03Z Evangelist files speech lawsuit against SDSM&TRyan Lengerich Journal staff Rapid City Journal
November 08, 2012 11:07 am  • 

A Rapid City evangelist today filed a lawsuit against the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology for charging him $50 to speak on campus and limiting him to an area inside a campus building.

Mark Gavin of Black Hawk filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court, asking for the opportunity to preach on more prominent outdoor areas around campus.

The Center for Religious Expression, a Memphis, Tenn., based nonprofit, filed the lawsuit on Gavin's behalf today. The lawsuit names Acting President Duane Hrncir, Vice President of Student Affairs Patricia Mahon and Surbeck Center Director Stephanie Lindsley as defendants.

An official from SDSM&T said it is school policy not to comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit argues the university wrongfully treated religious speech as commercial speech when Gavin attempted to set up on campus in 2010 and 2011. It says Gavin does not solicit donations or seek conversion from people he encounters.

According to the lawsuit, the State Board of Regents, which governs Mines, has a policy in place for how private parties can use state facilities  Under the policy, private parties can use grounds around campus "contingent upon agreement to avoid disruption of institutional uses of the facilities or grounds, interference with students or employees, or damage, fouling or littering facilities, grounds or other properties."

The campus grounds are not available for commercial purposes, which his how the school classified Gavin.

Mines requested Gavin pay $50 and speak from a table inside the Surbeck Center, a building generally used for campus meetings and expos.

"The lawsuit stresses that the areas where Gavin wants to speak - the Quad and the grassy area in front of the Surbeck Center - are uniquely suitable for his expression, appearing and functioning like public parks," representatives from the Center for Religious Expression said in a statement.

Contact Ryan Lengerich at 394-8418 or ryan.lengerich@rapidcityjournal.com.

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(10) Comments

  1. snuffleupagus
    Report Abuse
    snuffleupagus - November 11, 2012 5:16 pm
    Bottomline this guy has the right to speak on public property without having to pay. You all sound so smart but they must not teach the constitution there at school of mines. Sounds like more of the same spirit of being tolerant towards everyone but Christians. Keep your head up Mr. Gavin and dont let all these poo-pooers get under your skin.
  2. engineer1244
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    engineer1244 - November 09, 2012 2:30 am
    As a current student of SDSM&T, I find his claims ridicules. The Surbeck Center is one of the best places on campus to reach out to the students so I have no idea why he is complaining. Besides that I would not want him roaming the campus freely and the 50 dollars is a small fee in the scheme of things.
  3. FriendlyNeighborhoodAtheist
    Report Abuse
    FriendlyNeighborhoodAtheist - November 08, 2012 8:22 pm
    I think SDSMT made the right call, but if the school changes its stance, or if they lose in court, I will make sure there are atheists speaking to students just as much as Mr. Gavin.

    Schools are places for learning, and if Mr. Gavin would like to spread his message there are plenty of public areas around Rapid City to do it.
  4. BeenThere2
    Report Abuse
    BeenThere2 - November 08, 2012 7:21 pm
    Mr. Gavin: I don't care if you want to lecture on religion or 37 differents species of ants! If I wanted to listen to you, I will come to you! Pay for an auditorium, send out invitations and speak your mind! If I wanted to lecture on a topic that was important to me, I would expect to pay for the privledge! I am ***SICK AND TIRED*** of religious temper-tantrums and the "gimme gimme" demands. If you want it free and easy, then lecture AT HOME!
  5. Frank Zappa
    Report Abuse
    Frank Zappa - November 08, 2012 5:44 pm
    Dear Mr. Gavin,

    Nobody is interested in your imaginary friend.
  6. ndoorenbos
    Report Abuse
    ndoorenbos - November 08, 2012 3:27 pm
    SDSM&T is not a public place like a park.....I paid money to go there and learn about Science and Engineering (I would go to church if I wanted to learn about GOD). There is a religious student organization or two on campus....have him contact them and they can host an assembly or host a day of pandering with him. On his own, he is no more than a solicitor trying to take advantage of the overly PC, please don't step on everyone's toes world. Perhaps the school did not know how to handle this exact situation and shuffle him under a policy they already have for outside organizations.....but he did not go through the right chanels of the school if he wished to do what he wants for free either. Even our student organizations have to go to the school and have scheduled events and authorized handouts...what makes him feel that the religion card can allow him to do as he pleases.
  7. NelagT
    Report Abuse
    NelagT - November 08, 2012 2:14 pm
    Ha..."non-profit" my arse. Couldn't afford the 50 bucks, but can afford a lawsuit?

    The quad at SDSMT is most definitely NOT a public place like a park. The state owns it for the purposes of serving the students, and it can decide who is allowed to pander there. If they didn't have this control, they would have no grounds for removing homeless camps.
  8. Black Hawk
    Report Abuse
    Black Hawk - November 08, 2012 2:09 pm
    Nonprofit status needs to be addressed. It is being abused. I would love to see all American churches pay taxes. They don't appear to be short of mega-church money. Mr Gavin can stand on the corner of 5th and Main for free.
  9. Roger Cornelius
    Report Abuse
    Roger Cornelius - November 08, 2012 1:26 pm
    Evangelist like Gavin are the reason I love my God and not religion
  10. Report Abuse
    - November 08, 2012 12:23 pm
    I agree with the college, let him pay and limit where he goes.

    If they let him go where he wants, that will open the floodgates. What will be next? Politicians? 7th Day Adventists? Newsmen? Or could be the worst thing of all.... (Mimes). Where will it all end?

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