Summarized by Kent Larsen
Mormons' property buy challenged
USA Today, pg 3A 23Nov99 N1
By John Ritter: USA Today
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Several Mormon News subscribers notified us of
this article about the ACLU's recently filed lawsuit against Salt Lake
City over the sale of a one-block stretch of main street to the LDS
Church for a pedestrian mall. The ACLU claims that the sale eliminates
an important place for protest and free speech in the city.
While the article doesn't give any new information compared to articles
already summarized on Mormon News, it does clearly state the issues in
the dispute. While the LDS Church has not been named in the lawsuit,
because it is a party to the sale it may be added in the future.
The terms of the sale allow the LDS Church to prohibit a variety of
activities on the pedestrian mall it will build, including assembling,
demonstrating and picketing. The ACLU claims that the area is an
important public forum, and that the city can not limit the right to
protest there constitutionally. [This is] "an important case in terms of
whose city this is, whose voice is going to be heard and respected,"
says ACLU lawyer Stephen Clark. "Is it just a way to further entrench
the dominant church and the most powerful corporation in the city?"
Salt Lake Community College professor John McCormick observes that the
lawsuit represents the social tension that exists in the city, "At
present, we're a contested city," he says. As the city has grown more
diverse and less Mormon (its about 50% now, says the article), the
tension has grown, "It's gotten harder and harder for the church to
exercise its influence," says McCormick, who has writen a forthcoming
book on social tension in Salt Lake called, "Salt Lake City: The
But public support may be on the Church's side. Many non-Mormons support
the Church's property-rights argument. "Probably the sale shouldn't have
happened," says computer programmer George Walker. "However, it has
happened, and I think the ACLU is out of bounds." Others were more
worried about the traffic problems caused by shutting down the block.
And, of course, there are those that are concerned with the Church
exercising political power in a city where it seems dominant, "I think
there's no separation between church and state here," says Kristin
Romeo, who recently moved to Salt Lake from Minneapolis with her
husband. "This wouldn't happen anywhere else in the U.S."