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ACLU adds LDS Church, mayor to plaza suit

The Salt Lake Tribune, USA
Dec. 3, 2003
Heather May • Wednesday December 3, 2003

The ACLU has included the LDS Church in the group it is suing over the Main Street Plaza resolution. The American Civil Liberties Union also reintroduced Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson as a defendant in a filing Tuesday.

ACLU attorney Mark Lopez could not be reached for comment. The organization may have added the LDS Church because the church has intervened in the suit to protect its interest in the plaza. Also, the ACLU argues in its filing that the church is acting as a government body because it has authority over the plaza and can limit free speech there. The ACLU believes the plaza remains a public forum, like a city sidewalk, even though the city eliminated the public’s easement through the park. The city and church, which want U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball to dismiss the suit, say the plaza is now private property.

The ACLU originally sued the city and the mayor, claiming the city violated the First Amendment right to free speech and its prohibition against government establishing, or endorsing, a religion.

The civil rights group then removed Anderson as a defendant. Perhaps the ACLU included the mayor again to bolster its request to take his deposition. The city has filed for a protective order to prevent ACLU attorneys from interviewing Anderson and the City Council. The ACLU also wants to interview leaders of the LDS Church and members of the Alliance for Unity, a group that helped broker the easement’s elimination.

Kimball is scheduled to hear arguments Friday to decide whom the ACLU can interview and when.

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