Hearing set for Friday in free speech case involving Mormon temple
Courts • Main Street Church characterizes Brigham City as “Orwellian” in restricting free speech.
Published: September 12, 2012 11:39AM
Updated: December 25, 2012 11:31PM

A federal judge will decide Friday whether to grant a Christian church’s request for a temporary restraining order so it can pass out fliers on sidewalks in front of a new Mormon temple in Brigham City.

The Main Street Church of Brigham City and ACLU of Utah filed a civil lawsuit Tuesday seeking the order on a city ordinance they characterized as “Orwellian” in restricting free speech and other constitutional rights. The hearing is set for 10 a.m. before U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball.

In its lawsuit, the church said the ordinance turns the “entire city into a place where free speech, free assembly and free exercise of religion are prohibited until people are granted a special permit designating free speech zones.” The church received a permit from the city on Aug. 21 that limits its activity to two lightly trafficked sidewalks and allows only four people to participate in handing out literature at a time.

The church, which believes Mormonism is based on erroneous teachings, requested the permit to hand out “Biblically-based information about temples and related Christian temples” during an open house for the new temple, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The open house ends Saturday, but Main Street Church wants to hand out its leaflets through Oct. 1.

City Administrator Bruce Leonard told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday that the city adopted the ordinance to deal with pedestrian and vehicle safety at any event in the city.

“We felt we’d done a good job in allowing any protest,” Leonard said. “They had good access to the temple. We felt they had ample area and ample time to talk to people.”

Leonard said the city has had a good relationship with Main Street Church, which is located next door to city hall, in the past. But safety was a concern during the temple open house, he said, which also led the city to reroute traffic on its main street to divert large trucks.

brooke@sltrib.com