Salt Lake City and LDS Church Address Protest Zones

KSL-TV 5/February 13, 2004
By Carole Mikita

Salt Lake City government and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are once again looking at establishing protest zones on sidewalks outside Temple Square and the Conference Center.

Last October the street preachers were out in force and two Latter-day Saints were arrested. The preachers were waving garments, held sacred by Latter-day Saints. Some were so offended they went after the protestors.

It is this heightened atmosphere that concerns church leaders and members. Church attorney Von Keetch sent a letter to the city, stating that the First Amendment does not protect intentionally provocative speech, which creates a clear and present danger of violence.

Four suggestions: separate preachers and conference goers, keep demonstrators in a confined area, restrict the noise level even more, and require permits for protests.

Likewise, the street preachers director sent a letter, which says until now the city and police have stayed within the framework of the Constitution but if that changes, he writes in part, "I seriously caution Salt Lake City to go no further with lies and rumors and governmental discrimination in favoring one religion over another, simply because their particular religion loses in the public forum. Losing in the legal forum as well will only add to the loss."

City attorney Ed Rutan says the plan will remain the same for this April with 'no standing zones' in the crosswalks and on the sidewalks.

Ed Rutan, Attorney for Salt Lake City: "We have to protect public safety, but we also have a constitutional obligation not to unnecessarily burden people's expectations of their free speech rights."

It's that balance that's so hard to maintain. As for the noise, there is an ordinance on the books already.

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