Attorneys Allowed to Question Bishop, Mayor, Billionaire

Attorneys Allowed to Question Bishop, Mayor, Billionaire

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Attorneys in the Main Street plaza suit will be able to question Mormon church Presiding Bishop H. David Burton, Mayor Rocky Anderson and industrialist Jon M. Huntsman.

The city, church and American Civil Liberties Union reached agreement on the depositions on Wednesday, the day a federal judge had been expected to rule on the issue.

The ACLU is challenging the city's agreement to give up the public easement -- and the public's accompanying free-speech rights -- on the property in exchange for church-owned land elsewhere in the city. The plaza property originally had been one block of Main Street, but earlier had been sold to the church for $8.1 million.

The original agreement had provided for the public easement but the church was to have had control over speech and behavior. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the city could not give up the public's speech rights on public easement. That led to the latest city-church land deal.

The ACLU contends that Anderson, Huntsman and Burton, or other members of the church hierarchy, conspired to craft Anderson's agreement to give up the public easement. It contends the agreement violates constitutional principles of separation of church and state.

The plaintiffs hope the interviews will show that Anderson agreed to give up the easement to appease the church.

Last week, church attorney Alan Sullivan and Chief Deputy City Attorney Steven Allred argued against allowing the depositions, saying that mayors and their advisers are precluded from such court-ordered interviews.

Sullivan would not say why the opposition to the depositions was dropped.

He said the depositions will be completed before Jan. 9.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball plans to rule on the church and city's motions to dismiss the case on Jan. 26. If he rules against dismissal, he is expected to then rule on ACLU motions to return free speech to the plaza while the case goes on.

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

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