A federal judge made the right decision for the right reasons earlier this week in ruling that the Kansas State Fair could require PETA to protect people walking past its booth from inadvertently being exposed to images showing animals being slaughtered.
Importantly, U.S. District Court Judge J. Thomas Marten did not prohibit PETA from showing the controversial video, a 13-minute film called “Glass Walls” that shows animals being slaughtered and in some cases abused at factory farms. A central issue in the case was whether the state fair constitutes a public square — a place where anyone can speak or protest — or whether, because exhibitors must apply for and pay fees to participate, the fair is a “limited public forum.” The judge ruled that the state fair is a limited public forum. He also said the fair’s proposed restrictions were not extensive enough that they infringed on PETA’s right to free speech.
The judge also declined the state’s request that the case be dismissed. Instead, he invited PETA to appeal to the 10th Circuit. Among other arguments, PETA contended that “the requirement that PETA hide its video from fairgoers is like the Wizard of Oz telling Dorothy that she can’t look behind the curtain.”
Yet fairgoers would be allowed to “look behind the curtain.” They simply would not have PETA’s video thrust upon them. Fairgoers will still know that PETA is sponsoring the booth, and if they like, can enter, view the video and speak with representatives. Indeed, the controversy and the lawsuit could even cast a spotlight on PETA’s message where none existed before.
The Kansas State Fair begins Friday.