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Man Sues Church, City Over Plaza Arrest

Man Sues Church, City Over Plaza Arrest

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A man arrested for handing out leaflets on the Mormon church's Main Street Plaza has filed a lawsuit against the church, the city, Mayor Rocky Anderson, former Mayor Deedee Corradini.

Kurt Van Gorden, of Victorville, Calif., was arrested in April during the church's semiannual general conference.

In his federal lawsuit filed Friday he demanded that there be a jury trial. He believes he is entitled to $1 million.

In addition to the arrest, Van Gorden said Mormon security guards barred him from the plaza last September, even though he wasn't passing out literature.

Van Gorden, who runs a Christian evangelical organization called Utah Gospel Mission, says the arrest violated his constitutional rights to free speech and exercise of religion.

He also says the arrest violated his rights against unreasonable searches and seizures and his right to due process.

The lawsuit charges that the defendants conspired to violate his civil rights by creating the plaza, allowing the church to restrict speech on the public easement and enforcing the restrictions.

Noting that Van Gorden is a member of a "religious minority in Utah" where a majority of residents are Mormon, the conspiracy "was motivated by religious animus," the lawsuit states.

The pastor also seeks injunctive relief to prevent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the city, Anderson and Police Chief Rick Dinse from preventing him from exercising his right to speech and religion.

Since his arrest, a federal appeals court has ruled that the plaza is like a public sidewalk and open to free speech because the city retained an easement.

Van Gorden was arrested five months before the ruling was issued. The charges against him were dropped.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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