Christian Church Sues Utah City Over Restrictions on Passing Out Tracts Near Mormon Temple
The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah has filed suit against a Utah city over an ordinance they say interferes with the rights of a church to pass out evangelist literature in front of a Mormon temple.
The ACLU brought the suit on Tuesday against Brigham City on behalf of Main Street Church of Brigham City, which sought to distribute literature critical of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in front of the city's Mormon temple.
The ACLU is calling for an injunction against Brigham City's "Free Speech Zone Ordinance," which the organization referred to as "Orwellian."
"In short, with this ordinance, Brigham City essentially turns the entire city into a place where free speech, free assembly and free exercise of religion are prohibited until people are granted a special permit designating free speech zones where they are allowed to engage in those activities," reads a brief filed by the ACLU.
"Failure to comply with these restrictions will mean civil and criminal penalties for those engaged in activities that are clearly protected by the First Amendment."
John Mejia, legal director for the ACLU of Utah, told The Christian Post that his organization became aware of the situation when Main Street Church of Brigham City contacted them.
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"There is a hearing set for 10 a.m. on Friday on our motion for a temporary restraining order to stop the city from enforcing this ordinance against the Main Street Church," said Mejia.
Formerly known as Living Hope Christian Fellowship, Main Street Church has been active in Brigham City since the 1960s. On their website, they have a section titled "Answers for Mormons," which includes links to videos, essays, and other materials meant to evangelize members of the LDS Church.
Last month, a Mormon temple in Brigham City whose construction began in 2010 became open to the public. In contrast to other Mormon meeting places, temples are considered "houses of the Lord" and hold greater sacramental significance than meeting houses or chapels.
In celebration of the Mormon temple's opening, an open house was announced to go from Aug. 18 until Sept. 15, with Sundays exempted from the schedule.
Main Street Church sought to pass out literature around the temple during the open house period, applying for a permit last month. However, the approved permit gave them far more restrictions than they had requested. Namely, it restricted Main Street to having no more than four people a day pass out literature and kept them from posting people on the east and west sides of the temple, which are the sides expected to get the most people traffic during the open house.
Dennis Fife, mayor of Brigham City, told The Christian Post that there were other issues, namely traffic matters that affected their decision on the restrictions in Main Street's permit.
"We felt that we provided great access to the Main Street Church but still needed to protect the safety of those getting on and off the buses," said Fife.
The ACLU of Utah suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, Northern Division.