SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The American Civil Liberties Union is appealing a judge's ruling that the Mormon Church may restrict speech in a downtown private park that formerly was a public street.
U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart in May dismissed the ACLU's legal challenge of several restrictions in the park, ruling that the collection of fountains, reflecting pools, plants and statues was a private religious garden, exempt from First Amendment protection of free speech.
ACLU attorney Stephen Clark filed the appeal Monday with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
The city sold the block of Main Street to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1999 for $8.1 million, reserving the public's right to 24-hour public access but agreeing to a list of restrictions.
Under the agreement, church security guards may throw people out for smoking, sunbathing, bicycling or engaging in ''offensive, indecent, obscene, vulgar, lewd or disorderly speech, dress or conduct.''
Stewart wrote that although the property remains open to pedestrians, ''it is clearly a walkway through an enclave area and not part of the city's public sidewalks. It is no longer a public forum.''
A plaintiff in the case, the Rev. Tom Goldsmith of First Unitarian Church, said the plaza rules make non-Mormons feel like outsiders.
''Now that the city has sold Main Street and allowed the new owner to silence and banish anyone who might offer an alternative voice or experience, we feel as though we are welcome here only so long as we are neither seen nor heard,'' Goldsmith said.
City Attorney Roger Cutler said the plaintiffs have little chance of winning the appeal.
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