Thursday, October 01, 2009

Texas State Fair Is Not State Actor In Barring Religious Literature Distribution

In Rundus v. City of Dallas, (ND TX, Sept. 16, 2009), a Texas federal district court rejected a claim brought by a Christian evangelist seeking damages for the refusal by the State Fair of Texas to allow him to pass out religious literature on sidewalks inside the fairgrounds. State Fair rules required plaintiff to pay a fee to rent a booth if he wished to hand out literature inside the fairgrounds. His lawsuit claimed the Fair's literature distribution policy violated his 1st Amendment right to express his religious beliefs. The State Fair of Texas is a private non-profit corporation that holds the fair each year at the city-owned Fairgrounds. The court held that the State Fair did not become a state actor by reason of its relationship with the city of Dallas. According to the court, there was "no evidence that the City was involved, much less 'pervasively entwined,' with any aspect of the Literature Distribution Restriction." Therefore plaintiff had failed to show the "state action" necessary for a recovery. And while the city was a state actor, its conduct did not give rise to any liability. (See prior related posting.) The Dallas Observer News Blog reported on the case yesterday.