Brigham City, church reach deal in speech dispute at Mormon temple
A Christian church has settled a federal lawsuit over a northern Utah city's effort to quell speech last fall during an open house for an LDS Church temple.
In its out-of-court settlement, the Main Street Church agreed to forgo monetary damages, and Brigham City agreed to pay the ACLU of Utah, which represented the church, $11,000 in attorney fees and court filing costs.
The church alleged a "Free Speech Zone" adopted by the city was unconstitutional because it limited public expression to two lightly trafficked sidewalks near the new temple. The church wanted to pass out fliers and interact with visitors to the temple.
After the lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on Sept. 11, the city agreed to not enforce the ordinance, adopted in 2010, and to let a limited number of church members hand out literature. About two weeks later, the Brigham City council repealed the ordinance.
"It is disappointing that it took a lawsuit for the city to see that the ordinance needed to be repealed, but we are glad to see it go and to have this case resolved," said Jim Catlin, pastor of Main Street Church, in a statement. "When we were finally allowed on all of the sidewalks during the open house, we had no trouble at all. Being able to freely engage in respectful dialogue even when we don't agree is one of the things that makes America great."
The city said the ordinance was aimed at protecting the safety of pedestrians.
"While cities are allowed to take measures to protect the public, the courts have made it clear that wholesale restrictions on civil liberties in the name of safety cannot stand," said John Mejia, legal director for the ACLU of Utah, in a statement.