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LDS Church Vows to Take Plaza Case to U.S. Supreme Court

LDS Church Vows to Take Plaza Case to U.S. Supreme Court

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The LDS Church's case over the Main Street Plaza will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

This announcement comes as the dispute ratchets up with a power struggle between Mayor Rocky Anderson and the City Council.

Before the 10th Circuit Court decision, an attorney, hired by the City Council, released his own legal opinion. And that has caused a major division between the mayor and council members.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver rejected the LDS Church's request to take another look at the case. And church officials immediately said they will appeal this case up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Also today, we can clearly see the specter of a constitutional crisis here at City Hall -- and the distinct possibility -- the mayor and City Council will duke this out in court.

In a city sharply divided by religion, today one could see the potential for that divide to grow into a Grand Canyon.

Ironically, the animosity is swirling around one of the city's most peaceful spots.

Main Street Plaza was sold by the city to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, WITH an easement for public access.

But a federal appeals court recently ruled free speech rights the LDS Church wants eliminated here must still stand.

Salt Lake's City Council, of which nearly all are members of the LDS Church, stepped firmly into the fray today. An attorney it hired says the council could remove public access from the easement, effectively turning over to the LDS Church complete control over the property, and extinguishing any claim to free speech rights there.

"The council has the power to eliminate the public's right to access on the easement. That leaves the city with the power to have access, but only for city government officials and employees," says John Martinez, attorney for the City Council.

"We're going to consider it. We haven't made a decision. We want to get public input ... Another thing that hasn't been mentioned here is the mayor could sell the easement to the LDS Church," says David Buhler, council chairman.

But the mayor himself, a former LDS Church member, says if the council goes that route, he'll veto.

"I would absolutely veto it and I would challenge the authority of the council to pass such an ordinance," Anderson says.

"It may require court action because they have no authority whatsoever to pass such an ordinance."

It should be noted that all of this will unfold during an election year. Mayor Anderson and four of seven city councilors are up for reelection next fall.

Will Main Street be an issue? Absolutely.

As for the Supreme Court appeal, approximately only 3 percent of those cases that are appealed to the High Court are accepted.

So truly, it's a longshot.

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