Ideology at the fair

A US Supreme Court decision allowing government-sponsored events such as fairs, festivals, and parades to bar ``inappropriate'' groups from participating places new limits on expression of ideas.

The Frankfort, Ky., case resulted in murky law because Downtown Frankfort Inc., which had been given responsibility by the city for the annual pumpkin festival, had no formal guidelines for its policy that booths, meant to be for fun and entertainment, could be denied ``to any displayer [or merchandiser] deemed inappropriate to that theme or purpose.''

The downtown improvement organization rejected Capitol Area Right to Life, which had participated in the 1989 festival. There had been objections to the anti-abortionists giving plastic fetuses to children.

Also banned under the general policy were the National Organization for Women and the Kentucky Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights....

The absence of a requirement for formal guidelines ... will make application of the decision uneven.... The Kentucky case builds a shaky platform for ideology to prevail in management of public fairs, festivals, and parades.

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