Although a group of Marilyn Manson fans came out of a recent freedom of speech lawsuit a mere $50 richer, they won a much larger victory overall for rock fans in the state of Utah, according to their attorney Brian Barnard.
The state settled out of court a standing dispute with the nine disgruntled Manson fans who claim they were cheated when the shock rocker was banned from playing at a state park. The Manson supporters filed suit last January, after the president of the Utah State Fairpark banned the Jan. 11 performance.
As part of the settlement from two weeks ago the fans were to receive $50 each to cover the price of the tickets, any inconveniences caused by the banning, as well as legal costs -- a total of $9,300. But more importantly, at least for them, the state attorney general prevailed upon the Fairpark to enact regulations prohibiting future content-based cancellations.
"They essentially say anybody who wants to perform at the Fairpark can
perform at the Fairpark -- we won't sit in a censorship role," the fans' attorney Barnard told ATN Tuesday. If the facility has reason to believe that a particular performance will be illegal, it can get an advance court order to prevent the event. "Which they had the right to do anyway," Barnard added.
John Whittaker, president of the Fairpark, did not return repeated calls.
The attorney said that he is satisfied with the settlement. "In large part
it was an educational process -- to educate these Fairpark people that they
can't do that kind of stuff," Barnard said.
Manson, whose Antichrist Superstar tour has been the subject of much debate between freedom of speech supporters and those who take offense to his on-stage behavior (tearing up Bibles and committing lewd acts with an American flag), did perform for his fans on Jan. 11-- not at the Fairpark, but at the Wolf Mountain ski resort 30 miles away.
The dispute originated in December of 1996 when Whittaker announced in a
letter to the show's promoter that he was canceling Manson's concert based
on the performer's lyrics and advertising, Barnard said. Angry fans sought
advice through the Utah Legal Clinic, and Barnard filed suit on their
behalf asking that the concert be reinstated.
While the judge in the case agreed with the plaintiffs that the Fairpark
had no right to ban the concert, he refused to order the venue to stage the
event. Thus the fans filed suit again, after the concert had been held at Wolf
Mountain, seeking $50 each in damages, plus legal fees, and a court order
preventing such cancellations from happening in the future.
"When the whole thing started, the concern that I had and the concern that
my clients had was that I don't want the state of Utah dictating what kind
of music can be performed," Barnard said.