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Posted 11 Jun 2001   For week ended June 08, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 10Jun01

By Kent Larsen

ACLU Asks Appeals Court to Overturn Main Street Ruling

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Claiming US District Judge Ted Stewart's ruling on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Main Street Plaza is in error, the American Civil Liberties Union filed an appeal today with the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. After filing the appeal, the ACLU's Utah legal director Stephen Clark said today that Main Street "is a symbol of community central to the 'marketplace of ideas' that has played such a critical role in our nation's history," and added that the sale of the property to the LDS Church should have preserved the block's status as a public forum.

The appeal, filed on behalf of Salt Lake City's First Unitarian Church, Utahns for Fairness and the National Organization for Women, comes after Judge Stewart finally issued a written ruling May 4th, four months after he ruled in court. That ruling, given from the bench on January 2nd, said that the sale of the block made it private property, and that the US Constitution's 1st amendment right of free speech doesn't extend to private property. "There is no longer a main street, or any street on the property," the judge wrote. "Instead, there is an ecclesiastic park, a destination in and of itself."

The dispute arose after the city and the LDS Church reached an agreement for the sale of the one-block-long stretch of Main street to the Church for $8.1 million. As part of the sale, the Church and the city agreed to place an easement on the property, ensuring public access to the resulting plaza 24 hours a day, but also prohibiting smoking, sunbathing, bicycling and engaging in "offensive, indecent, obscene, vulgar, lewd or disorderly speech, dress or conduct."

The First Unitarian Church's Rev. Tom Goldsmith objects to the grant of restrictions, "Now that the city has sold Main Street and allowed the new owner to silence and banish anyone who might offer an alternative voice or experience, we feel as though we are welcome here only so long as we are neither seen nor heard," Goldsmith said.

But city attorney Roger Cutler says he is surprised to see the appeal. "I thought Judge Stewart's ruling was thorough and well-reasoned," he said. He believes the appeal has little chance of succeeding.


The ACLU appeals Main Street ruling
Deseret News 4Jun01 T1
By Maria Titze: Deseret News staff writer
Lawyer says role of 'public forum' needs protection

ACLU Appeals Ruling on Mormon Park
Washington Post (AP) 4Jun01 T1
The Associated Press


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