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ACLU: Salt Lake City- LDS Church Deal 'Unconstitutional'

ACLU: Salt Lake City- LDS Church Deal 'Unconstitutional'



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DENVER (AP) -- A civil liberties lawyer says a deal giving control of a downtown Salt Lake City plaza to the Mormon church must be overturned -- because it gives church officials police power over a public area, violating the constitution.

American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Mark Lopez told a three-judge appeals court panel in Denver this morning that Salt Lake City retains some authority over the plaza, and must enforce free-speech rights.

A 2003 agreement called for the city to give up a guarantee of public access to the plaza, in exchange for church-owned land elsewhere in the area.

But Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attorney Alan Sullivan claims the agreement guaranteed the church the right to refuse public access, and enforce its own rules.

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This is the second time the Tenth U-S Circuit Court of Appeals has heard the case. Judges ruled in 2002 that an agreement between the city and the church did not allow restrictions on speech or other activities on plaza sidewalks.

The appeals court did not say when it might issue a ruling in the latest case.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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