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City wants ACLU Main Street Plaza Lawsuit Tossed

City wants ACLU Main Street Plaza Lawsuit Tossed

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A city attorney has asked a federal judge to dismiss the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit challenging the Main Street plaza land-swap deal, complaining the lawsuit is confusing.

Chief Deputy City Attorney Steven Allred on Thursday filed his complaint, which U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball is reviewing.

The lawsuit claims the city violated the First Amendment when it gave control of the Main Street Plaza to the Mormon church.

The city complaint didn't answer the ACLU's specific allegations. Instead, it suggested the ACLU rewrite its complaint so that the city can adequately respond.

The city complaint also asked Kimball to dismiss Anderson as a defendant because the suit was filed while Anderson was acting in his official capacity as mayor.

The complaint alleged that statements in the ACLU's 51-page complaint were confusing, and contained rumors and speculation. The complaint "is not short, plain, simple, concise or direct. Rather, it is long, cumbersome, complex, prolix and convoluted," the city claims.

The ACLU declined to comment. It filed a lawsuit earlier this month on behalf of Utah Gospel Mission, First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, Shundahai Network, Utah National Organization for Women and Lee J. Siegel.

The suit alleges that when the city sold its right of way through the Main Street Plaza, it violated the plaintiffs' First Amendment right to express themselves as well as the ban on endorsement of religion found in the U.S. and Utah constitutions.

The ACLU's lawsuit claims The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints used religious code to let people know that God, through church President Gordon B. Hinckley, endorsed the church's demand for the plaza easement.

It asserts Mayor Rocky Anderson was trying to "shore up his flagging support" on the west side of the city by exchanging the easement for land and money for a community center in Glendale, and alleges many people believe the church controls the government.

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

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