Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Free (mmphf)!

From CNN:

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal judge on Monday upheld a land swap that permits the Mormon church to restrict speech on a block of Main Street that it purchased from Salt Lake City.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball dismissed a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and others that said the deal violated the First Amendment by limiting speech and effectively endorsing the church.

The ACLU said it would appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Alan Sullivan, attorney for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the church was gratified by the ruling. “The church wants the plaza to be an oasis of peace and beauty in the midst of our busy city, a place that everyone can enjoy,” he said.

The city gave the church control of the plaza that it had purchased earlier in exchange for church-owned land elsewhere and more than $4 million.

Lee Siegel, a writer and one of the plaintiffs, said: “I did not expect a ruling in favor of … fundamental constitutional right from any federal judge who’s a product of Utah and its theocracy, which suffers from a severe and unhealthy allergy to dissent.”

Any lawyers out there care to elucidate on whether or not property that is open to the public but controlled by a private entity (such as a church) is subject to the First Amendment? I thought that if you provided public access, you were obligated to honor the laws of the land. Silly me.