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For week ended March 05, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
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Sent on Mormon-News: 02Mar00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Utah ACLU Says City Favors LDS Church In Main Street Lawsuit
Salt Lake Tribune 2Mar00 N1
By Rebecca Walsh: Salt Lake Tribune

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah amended its lawsuit against Salt Lake City and the LDS Church on Wednesday, bolstering its claims that the sale of a one-block long stretch of Main Street in Salt Lake City is illegal with a new claim that the city's actions leading to the sale demonstrated preference toward the LDS Church, essentially endorsing the LDS Church in violation of the U.S. Constitution's First and 14th Amendments.

ACLU attorney Stephen Clark filed the amendment after reviewing city documents that he says show city administrators obscuring facts and skirting city processes to push through the sale. He says that the City Council's adoption of the public easement at issue in the lawsuit was only the last in a series of government steps that eased the sale, "Salt Lake City was essentially preferring one religion over others," Clark said.

The sale of the block was announced in December 1998 by then-Mayor Deedee Corradini and LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley. The sale was approved by the City Council after months of meetings and review, subject to an easement adopted by the council. However, Clark alleges that city attorney's "intentionally omitted" from documents provided to council members the Planning Commission's recommendation that the plaza be regulated as a public park. Instead, the easement allows the Church exclusive rights to proselyte and broadcast on the plaza and regulate what activities may occur there.

Clark alleges that City leaders "have also created an unconstitutional blurring of the distinction between church property and public property, giving the indelible impression that the LDS Church occupies a privileged position in the community and that the city endorses the LDS Church and its messages, without any secular purpose," says the amended suit.

The amended lawsuit also adds a new plaintiff, First Unitarian Church member Craig Axford to the First Unitarian Church, Utahns for Fairness and the National Organization for Women, the original plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Axford will, according to the claim, "take pains to avoid even using the public easement across Main Street so as not to be confronted with unwelcome governmentally endorsed religious messages."


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