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Plaza preacher drops LDS Church from suit

Associated Press, USA
Oct. 19, 2003 • Monday October 20, 2003

Baptist minister Kurt Van Gorden has dropped the LDS Church from a civil-rights lawsuit he filed in April stemming from 2002 arrests for handing out religious tracts on a downtown plaza.

Van Gorden, president of the Utah Gospel Mission, claimed in his federal lawsuit that his arrests on the Main Street Plaza violated his constitutional rights. Van Gorden sought at least $500,000 in damages from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, former Mayor Deedee Corradini, police Chief Rick Dinse and a handful of individual police officers.

Van Gorden was arrested two times in as many days in April 2002 while distributing religious tracts on the plaza. He was cited once for trespassing, but city prosecutors dismissed the citation within 10 days of its issuance.

Thursday’s order of dismissal releases the LDS Church from the case entirely, as well as one of the named police officers. The dismissals are with prejudice, meaning Van Gorden can never again file suit against the defendants for the same claims.

Church attorneys previously had filed a motion for dismissal, claiming the civil-rights statute Van Gorden relied on in his lawsuit is not relevant to his case. Van Gorden’s attorneys later stipulated to the church’s dismissal from the suit.

The case against the Salt Lake City defendants is ongoing.

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