Main Street Plaza Fight Not Over

Main Street Plaza Fight Not Over

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Carole Mikita ReportingThe battle over the Main Street Plaza is not over; that was the message that emerged today from a panel debate with many of the main players.

The panel discussion took place at the Sunstone Symposium, an annual meeting of Mormon intellectuals. The participants didn't agree on much except that there is still a great deal of public confusion about what happened and where we go from here. Several hundred listened as four panelists revisited what they called Salt Lake City's most divisive issue in recent memory.

For three years, the debate over the city's sale of one block of Main Street to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints raised free speech issues, brought lawsuits and conflicting judicial decisions and pitted citizen against citizen. Mayor Rocky Anderson said he disagreed with the original sale, then found himself having to defend it.

Rocky Anderson, SLC Mayor: “I believe the fundamental ethical principle needed to guide us was that we abide by promises made, to the extent possible."

The fact that that block was called Main Street was not lost on one city councilwoman who abstained from the final vote to give the church the easement.

Nancy Saxton, SLC Council: "This is the best of our constitution is for people to ask questions and challenge the decisions that have been made, by the people that you elect."

Though joining the ACLU in the right to free speech lawsuit, the Unitarian Church stated today it is light years apart from the street preachers in religion, politics and civility.

Rev. Tom Goldsmith, First Unitarian Church: "We have absolutely nothing to do with those who spew ugly hatred in the name of Jesus. And furthermore, the Unitarians who have been in this valley since 1891 have never once, and still today have any desire to protest the Mormon faith."

Stephen Clark, ALCU Attorney: "Whose city will this be? Who will decide whose voice will be heard and whose will not? I'm afraid that based on the precedence the city has created, the answer to that increasingly will be, the Mormon church's and no one else's."

As for the plaza, the ACLU with the Unitarian Church have announced they will file another suit against Salt Lake City, questioning the constitutionality of giving the public easement to the church in exchange for land on the west side.

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