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For week ended January 30, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church

Summarized by Kent Larsen

LDS Church Can Join Main Street Lawsuit
Salt Lake Tribune 26Jan00 N1
By Rebecca Walsh: Salt Lake Tribune

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart decided to allow the LDS Church to intervene in the ACLU's lawsuit against Salt Lake City challenging the sale of a block of Main Street to the LDS Church. After the ACLU wrote a letter to the judge dropping its opposition, Judge Stewart decided to let the Church participate.

ACLU attorney Stephen Clark tried to stop the LDS Church from joining the lawsuit because he felt the City could adequately represent the Church's interests and handle the constitutional challenge. However, Clark changed his mind when City Attorney Roger Cutler said he welcomed the LDS Church's participation in the suit. The April 1999 sale of the one-block portion of the street required that the LDS Church maintain 24-hour access to the area, but the Church sought and obtained an agreement limiting behavior in the area, including no smoking, offensive speech or indecent dress. The ACLU of Utah, representing local organizations that say they use the area for protests, challenged the rules because they wouldn't allow picketing or marching on the block.

The ACLU says that the City can't sell a public forum: a place where citizens can exercise free speech and expression. The rules restricting protest therefore violate the U.S. constitution, says the ACLU, which asked the Judge to declare the rules null and void.

This led the LDS Church to ask to join the lawsuit, "No one can seriously contest that such demands, if granted, would gravely and directly impact the property rights currently held by the church," wrote LDS Church attorney Von Keetch, in his brief asking to join the suit. "If plaintiffs are successful in their action, the church's property will suffer a stark transformation -- from a piece of property set aside for quiet enjoyment and meditation to a full-blown traditional public forum with often strident demonstrations, picketing and other public gatherings. It would be the church that would see a decrease in the value of its property. It would be the church which will be forced to provide groups like the National Organization for Women, Utahns for Fairness and the First Unitarian Church a place to express their anti-LDS viewpoints and criticisms, all the while with the LDS Church paying for the security, upkeep, lighting, insurance, landscaping, liability and other costs associated with this alleged 'public forum.' "

The ACLU's Clark worried that these property claims would 'bog down' the case, and keep the court from addressing the constitutional questions. But Salt Lake City's Cutler wasn't comfortable representing the LDS Church's interests.


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