Sunday, January 01, 2006

What A Long Strange Trip It's Been

A recent Salt Lake Tribune article marked the end of the Main Street legal battle between the Church and the ACLU:

The long, strange journey that was the Main Street Plaza battle effectively ends today, dropping the curtain on a seven-year drama over whether a chunk of Salt Lake City's Main Street should be an LDS Church-owned park.

The American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday it will forgo appealing its First Amendment case to the nation's highest court. The organization, in essence, had until today to file, but found no stomach for it among its national and Utah attorneys working on the case.

"We ultimately decided it was not in the best interest of the plaintiffs, the public, the ACLU or the important principles involved to trouble the U.S. Supreme Court with an appeal," said Dani Eyer, executive director of the ACLU's Utah chapter. "We did notify all the plaintiffs. Nobody was inclined to pressure us or hire someone else."

That means the Main Street Plaza between North Temple and South Temple will remain under LDS Church control with bans on protesting, smoking, sunbathing, bicycling and other "offensive, indecent, obscene, lewd or disorderly speech, dress or conduct."
I'm curious whether the ACLU also felt ultimately it was not in the best interest of the Church not to pursue an appeal. Are they part of the important principles involved in this equation? If so, they didn't bother to name them specifically in their press release. By the way, just how horrible is it that the Main Street Plaza between North and South Temple should remain free of offensive, indecent, obscene, lewd, or disorderly speech, dress or conduct?

At the literal crossroad of church and state, the plaza became the symbol for all battles between the traditional power of the LDS Church in Utah and the ever-increasing religious diversity of the state.

It was, as Eyer puts it, the stuff of democracy. And city officials, Latter-day Saints, even the ACLU say it was worth it. They hope lessons were learned - about civics, about the need to include the public in government decisions, about the obligation to address a simmering religious divide.
This is probably a fair conclusion. The debate was interesting; however, I'm not convinced it was the symbol for all battles between an all powerful LDS Church, which was somehow insensitive to the "ever-increasing religious diversity" in Utah. The Church, if anything goes out of its way to be sensitive to this increasing religious diversity. It would be nice to see just a little more reciprocal sensitivity from the other diverse religious movements toward the Church, particularly around General Conference time. The Tribune article is a good read for the background of the dispute and its ultimate resolution.


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