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.