By Paul Carter
Main Street Plaza ruled an 'Ecclesiastic Park' by Judge
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- US District Judge Ted Stewart issued a
written ruling on Friday, May 4th, stating that Main Street plaza in
Salt Lake City is no longer a public area. The 43-page order was
released over four months after Judge Stewart ruled from the bench
against attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union who had
brought suit against the sale of one block of Main Street to The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
"There is no longer a Main street, or any street on the property,"
writes the judge. "There is no daily commercial life along a road to
facilitate. Instead, there is an ecclesiastic park, a destination in
and of itself for picture taking, for viewing statuary and other
religious displays, and similar activities."
In the April 1999 contract for the sale of the block-long section of
Main Street, the church agreed to allow access to the public 24 hours
per day. But the agreement prohibits the use of tobacco and alcohol,
as well as several types of activities, including "loitering,
assembling, partying, demonstrating, picketing" and "illegal,
offensive indecent, obscene, vulgar or disorderly speech, dress or
It was these restrictions which the ACLU argued were unconstitutional
in a suit it filed on behalf of the First Unitarian Church, Utahns
for Fairness, and the National Organization for Women. The area in
dispute has been developed into a park-like setting with a reflecting
pool, planters, statuary and other religious presentations.
A Church spokesman, Michael Purdy, stated that he was "pleased the
court has affirmed the private property rights of the church, namely
the same rights and responsibilities held by all private property
owners. We feel the plaza enhances the downtown area and hope
visitors will continue to enjoy its beauty."
In January, the attorney for the ACLU, Stephen Clark, stated that the
organization would likely appeal. After the written ruling of last
week, local ACLU President Carol Gnade announced that "ACLU attorneys
need to carefully review the ruling to decide whether or not to
appeal. It will be an organizational decision."
Judge Reaffirms Ruling That LDS Plaza Isn't Public Forum
Salt Lake Tribune 5May01 N1
By Rebecca Walsh: Salt Lake Tribune
S.L. block is ruled an 'ecclesiastic park'
Deseret News 5May01 N1
By Maria Titze: Deseret News staff writer