2nd lawsuit filed over flier ban at LDS temple open house

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BRIGHAM CITY — The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah is filing a lawsuit against Brigham City, and it revolves around the new temple of The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The city is enforcing "Free Speech Zones," they say, for safety reasons and to handle the large crowds. But the three sidewalk areas being kept to only temple foot traffic are public property, and some groups say their first amendment rights are being taken away.

That includes some of the non-LDS groups that are often seen passing out pamphlets at events such as open houses.

Eric Johnson been attending temple open houses like this one, for nearly 20 years, representing the Mormonism Research Ministry. He said this is the first time he's been kept off the sidewalk.

"We haven't been able to go down this street here, or the other street on Main Street," Eric Johnson said. "It's public property. Taxpayers paid for that strip of sidewalk there; that is public access."

Brigham City leaders would not go on camera, but issued a written statement.

"Free speech zones are not for the purpose of restricting freedom of speech, but for public and protester safety," it read.

For the crowds at the temple, people like Johnson are not always welcome.

It's public property. Taxpayers paid for that strip of sidewalk there; that is public access.

–Eric Johnson

"By having a buffer zone, we're able to keep our sacred areas sacred, while still allowing them to have their area where they can do their free speech," said Tom Dewey, a temple visitor.

The ACLU lawsuit was filed on behalf of The Main Street Church, that just happens to sit next door to Brigham City hall.

Lawyers say the ordinance "turns the entire city into a place where free speech, free assembly and free exercise of religion are prohibited."

"If the city wants to do that, I think it's that prerogative," said Tiffany Dewey. "I don't think it needs to be a lawsuit involved."

While patrons may disagree with the direction the ACLU has taken, Johnson said he feels they had no other choice.

"We had to do this to prevent future events from being prohibited from what Americans should be able to do: practice their First Amendment right," he said.

The ACLU has filed for an injunction against those free speech zones. A hearing is set for this Friday. They are also seeking funds for damages and forward relief.

The temple open house ends Saturday.


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