Federal judge issues ruling to permit Mormon park rules

Posted: Friday, May 11, 2001

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A federal judge has reconfirmed that a church-owned park adjacent to Mormon headquarters is not a public forum, in a written ruling four months after he reached his decision.

U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart again blocked American Civil Liberties Union arguments that church restrictions on the park violate the First Amendment.

''All of the surroundings alert the pedestrian that he or she has entered an enclave that is distinct from the public area,'' Stewart wrote, so ''it is no longer a public forum.''

City leaders sold a block of Main Street to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1998 for $8.1 million.

The ACLU argued that, because the land was open to the public and looked like a city park, church rules went too far in barring smoking, sunbathing, bicycling or ''offensive, indecent, obscene, vulgar, lewd or disorderly speech, dress or conduct.''

Stewart originally issued his decision in the case Jan. 2. But rather than accept one of three drafts orders proffered by the church, the city and the ACLU, he took the time to write his own order.

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