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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended September 29, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
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Sent on Mormon-News: 27Sep00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

LDS Church Objects to Main Street Coverage

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The LDS Church's Public Affair's Department started taking a much more active public stance Friday, blasting the Salt Lake Tribune's coverage of the lawsuits over the Church's Main Street Plaza for its suggestion that the Church deceived the public about its intentions for the new plaza. In public statements to the media and in press releases, the Church claims that it made clear from the beginning that the plaza was to be private property on which the Church controlled access.

However, a lawsuit filed by the ACLU last year against Salt Lake City claims that a planning board recommendation limiting the Church's control over the plaza was omitted from the measure considered by the City Council, leading the civil rights organization to suspect that someone had changed the deal. The ACLU's lawsuits against the city also claim that the sale of the plaza unconstitutionally deprives the public of a place where protests are staged.

The Church's recent statements came in response to a Salt Lake Tribune article on Monday, September 18th, in which Tribune reporter Rebecca Walsh wrote, "Only documents filed by church attorneys in the American Civil Liberties Union's federal court challenge of the city's sale of the street hint at the church's plans. And they paint a different picture than what was presented when the LDS Church sought to buy the deed of one block of Salt Lake City's Main Street in 1998."

The article led the Church to respond on Thursday, September 22nd, saying, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints utterly rejects assertions made in media reports this week that the church somehow deceived and misled the citizens and public officials of Salt Lake City with regard to its purchase of a one-block segment of Main Street." That same day Presiding Bishop H. David Burton took reporters on a tour of the nearly-completed plaza, giving one-on-one interviews with reporters in an effort to explain what the plaza will be like.

However, the Salt Lake Tribune's article on Friday reiterated the claims from City Council members, a Planning Commission member and nearby residents who said that LDS Church representatives' description of what the plaza would be like changed over time. Chief among the allegations are claims that the Church indicated that the plaza would be like a city park, only with limits on protests. The final sale agreement passed by the City Council also has other limitations. Friday's Tribune quotes the ACLU's Carol Gnade saying, "The public record is clear. In both the community council meetings and the city planning meetings, this project was not proposed as a religious gathering place, but rather a public park."

To clarify its position and show that its position hasn't changed, the LDS Church put four documents on its website Tuesday. The documents include the Church's press release on the issue, a fact sheet with statements about the plaza, an overview of negotiations on the sale and a set of audio files with statements by Church officials on the plaza. Also available was the Church's original press release on the plaza sale.

Interestingly, the Church's documents also disclose that the Church had talked about purchasing the street as much as 40 years ago.


LDS Plaza: A 'Little Bit' of Church Property
Salt Lake Tribune 18Sep00 N1
By Rebecca Walsh: Salt Lake Tribune

Church Slams Media Over Plaza Controversy
Salt Lake Tribune 23Sep00 N1
By Rebecca Walsh: Salt Lake Tribune

LDS official calls church upfront about plans for downtown plaza
Deseret News 26Sep00 N1
By Alan Edwards: Deseret News staff writer

Church Rejects False Assertions About Plaza
LDS Church Press Release 22Sep00 N1

Fact Sheet about Church Rejection of False Assertions About Plaza
LDS Church Press Release 22Sep00 N1

Sound Bites on Church Rejection of False Assertions About Plaza
LDS Church Press Release 22Sep00 N1

Short Overview of Plaza Negotiations
LDS Church Press Release 22Sep00 N1


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