Forest Fair Rules Questioned

Recently, two evangelical Christians filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Girdwood Forest Fair, stating that their constitutional right to free speech had been hindered.

Since its beginning, the annual Girdwood Forest Fair has had the the rules, “no dogs, no politics, no religious orders.”

However, according to Anchorage Daily News (ADN,) David Grisham and his step-daughter, Tina Watson, say that the rule against religious orders is unconstitutional. Grisham and Watson argue that, since the Forest Fair is a public event, they should be allowed to promote their religion.

The intricacies of the Constitutional arguments are convoluted and subject to varying interpretations. To me, though, this is less of an issue about being legally correct, and more about choosing the wrong place and time to attempt to hand out these religious leaflets.

The organizers of the Fair have an exclusive permit to use of the park where the Forest Fair is held, and therefore are able to use the park for their own purposes.  With this permit, the organizers of the Forest Fair should be allowed to suggest that the rules of the Fair are, “no dogs, no politics, no religious orders.” Though these rules are controversial in a public affair setting, since they contradict free speech, people should still try to follow them as I believe that they create a happier environment.

Junior Abby Dodd, who attended the 2017 Forest Fair, said, “These rules are practical and of good intention. The rules, in my opinion, are not meant to cause harm of any kind, they are meant to keep the Forest Fair peaceful and fun for all. I think that Grisham is taking these rules out of context.”

Junior Max Addington, who also attended the 2017 Forest Fair, agreed with Dodd, saying, “I think that the rules, especially those regarding politics and religious orders, make a lot of sense. People are often unable to keep quiet when they become aware that someone has a view different than their own, so these rules allow for the Forest Fair to be a peaceful event.”

I also agree that the prevention of politics and religious orders allows for a more peaceful and relaxed environment, something the Forest Fair prides itself on having.

In the 41 years that the Forest Fair has taken place, there have been past complaints over the set rules, yet this is the first time that any lawsuit has ever been filed, or that any complaints regarding the rules have even been taken to court in any way.

According to ADN, organizers of the Forest Fair state that Grisham was speaking loudly and forcing leaflets upon those attending the Fair.  

Grisham, who is well known for causing unnecessary controversy, states that he was peacefully handing out leaflets.  Nonetheless, his actions were ones that are prohibited at the Fair.  From my research, I believe that he was in fact most likely forcing leaflets upon people.

Consistent with this observation, before being removed from the Fair, Grisham was asked to leave by security guards, yet he decided to continue handing out leaflets, saying that it was his constitutional right to do so.  Due to his refusal to leave the fairgrounds, security guards brought him to a tent where he was then held until he was removed from the Forest Fair altogether.  This did not discourage Grisham ,though, as he and Watson continued to hand out their leaflets on sidewalks outside of the Fair.

Sophomore Chelsea Bruce said, “I obviously do not think that people should be banned from the fair for having religious beliefs, but Grisham’s actions went too far.”  Bruce brings up a very good point. I, of course, do not think that people should not be allowed to attend the Fair simply because they are religious, or have religious beliefs.

Everyone should be welcome at such an event.  However, I do think that Grisham took this issue much too far and was clearly attempting to spread his religion at an inappropriate time and event.