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Posted 14 May 2001   For week ended May 11, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 12May01

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 conduct."

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


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