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Mormons to Take Sidewalk Speech Dispute to High Court

November 15, 2002|From Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — The Mormon Church suffered a setback Thursday in its fight to restrict speech on sidewalks running through its downtown plaza, but vowed to take the dispute to the Supreme Court.

A federal appeals court that had prohibited the church from banning protests and other forms of free speech on the sidewalks rejected the church's request for a new hearing, but the church said it won't give up.

The city sold the land for the plaza -- once a part of Main Street -- to the church, but retained easement rights to ensure pedestrian access.

The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled last month that because sidewalks are a traditional public forum, the city should protect free-speech rights there.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City sued after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints imposed rules restricting protests, demonstrations and other activities on the one-block plaza.

A lower court judge agreed with the Mormon Church and the city that the limits were constitutional. But the appeals court overturned that decision.

After buying the block of Main Street for $8.1 million, the church turned it into a plaza.

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