Skip

Sorry, Big Brother.
October 9, 2002 10:41 PM   Subscribe

Sorry, Big Brother. Appeals court says Mormon Church can't restrict speech on sidewalks of Salt Lake City Plaza. "The city cannot create a 'First Amendment-free zone." This comes punctually after allegations that LDS security harrassed evangelical volunteers.
posted by aaronshaf (84 comments total)

 
Before the "why is religion so goofy" squad get started, I just want to posit that this is about American rights, not about a church's beliefs. Please do carry on with generic religious bashing.
posted by Wulfgar! at 10:48 PM on October 9, 2002


Oops, looks like I trackback-pinged from the wrong entry. Well, here are some photos of LDS security at Temple Square. I had a great summer in Salt Lake City.
posted by aaronshaf at 10:54 PM on October 9, 2002


It should be known that the church actually purchased the plaza from the city (for over 8 million, if I recall), and that the location in question is church property. However, the city retained some rights to ensure that it remained open to public access. That's where the whole debate over who has jurisdiction comes in.

This is a legal issue, not an issue of an issue of "the evil religious right is trying to oppress and censor righteous activisists." They were just participating in the time-honored American pastime of kicking annoying people off their property. It's the same reason that abortion clinic protesters can't sit inside the lobby and protest. The only real issue is the legal vagueness of just how much the property actually belongs to them.

I'm LDS, by the way, so if you want to take this with a grain of salt, go right ahead.

I'm just tired of people looking for excuses to turn things like this around into "The LDS church is 'Big Brother'", "The LDS church is censoring citizens", "The LDS church is trying to create a First Amendment-free zone."

If you spent 8 million bucks for plot of land, you'd probably want to boot out protesters as well. Do they have a right to protest the church? ABSOLUTELY. But they don't have the right to do it on someone's property without the permission of that person or organization. That's the law, and it's plain common sense.

This is an issue of legal definitions, not of my church being "yet another terrible example of the religious right."
posted by oissubke at 11:01 PM on October 9, 2002


As far as the security guards being a bit out of line, it sounds (based on the articles linked) like they certainly were.
If you're a security guard and you get some do-gooder teenagers nyah-nyahing at you, you'd probably get a little snippy too. Now that doesn't befit anyone representing the church, and I'm sure that they have been sternly made aware of what they should and shouldn't be doing, but it's not like they were taking after the guys with billyclubs or anything. You can bet that their roles and responsibilities have since been clarified for them.
posted by oissubke at 11:08 PM on October 9, 2002


I quite admire you right now, oissubke. That's a solid comment on an inflammatory issue regardless of religious conviction. Good job.
posted by ttrendel at 11:11 PM on October 9, 2002


Second... (for ttrendel's comment).
posted by Wulfgar! at 11:16 PM on October 9, 2002


Thanks! I think that's the first time I've ever not been flamed for a post involving the phrase "I'm LDS". :-)

By the way, here's a related court case from the 10th circuit. I always like to get my facts straight, since news outlets have a terrible way of inaccurately synopsizing a situation.
posted by oissubke at 11:23 PM on October 9, 2002


If you spent 8 million bucks for plot of land, you'd probably want to boot out protesters as well. Do they have a right to protest the church? ABSOLUTELY. But they don't have the right to do it on someone's property without the permission of that person or organization. That's the law, and it's plain common sense.

It's NOT their property that is in dispute.

I understand that they would want to restrict such activities from happening on their own property, but the sidewalk, as stated in the article, does not belong to them.
If the city still legally owns that property to allow pedestrians access, than that piece of property still falls under the rules of free speech and public demonstration.
Suck it up, people. Follow the rules like everyone else.
Look at it this way... I own property on both sides of the road for a 2 mile stretch. I am not allowed, however, to block access to Saturn drivers, which really pisses me off.

Not a damn thing I can do about it, though, since I don't own the land.
posted by bradth27 at 11:24 PM on October 9, 2002


CTR, oissubke.
posted by TheManWhoKnowsMostThings at 11:33 PM on October 9, 2002


I have mixed feelings on this issue...

...I can partially understand the LDS position on protesters. If you've spent any time in and around Temple Square, you can see how obnoxious fundamentalist Christian groups can get. During the Olympics, there were dozens of fundies literally screeching about how the Mormons were going to hell and how they were the great Whore of Babylon (which I wish they really were as SLC would then be much more interesting...).

Over the past weekend, at the Church's General Conference, there was one group of fundies who thought it would be a great idea to stand at the edge of Temple Square and call all the women 'Harlots' because they were attending a church which was in 'apostasy'. If you know anything about the typical Utah Mormon woman, you can imagine the looks of horror they must have felt at hearing such words directed at them.

So, I can understand the Church wanting to keep such lovely human beings at two or three arms length. However, the Church itself has been less than honest or forthcoming about its intentions for this area. When it originally purchased the land, the Church noted that it would rule the park with the same regulations of the city, namely that free expression would not be impeded.

However, once the sale was made, the Church became more and more stringent with the park's rules. Offensive T-shirts were banned; missionaries were stationed within, loudspeakers broadcasting religious music were placed. I've known people, wearing something silly like a gothic or 'pornstar' T-shirt, told to cross the street, because their apparel is offensive, or be arrested for trespassing. I've been told smokers have been given similar treatment.

I wouldn't necessarily disagree with these rules if the Church had been upfront about their intentions from day one. But the Church knew the sale wouldn't go through otherwise, so, hence the deception. And, of course, there's no excuse for blocking public sidewalks.
posted by pandaharma at 12:02 AM on October 10, 2002


I understand that they would want to restrict such activities from happening on their own property, but the sidewalk, as stated in the article, does not belong to them.

That's not what I read. The LDS church owns the plot, sidewalks and all. What the city retains is just an easement -- a right to continue using the sidewalks in specified ways. Specified ways that seem to exclude the LDS's actions, though, from glancing at the opinion. Or maybe not; it looks like the agreement giveth and the agreement taketh away.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:09 AM on October 10, 2002


Yes, it's an easement but it's an easement in which the city created two classes of speech: acceptable and unacceptable. The Free Speech issue is quite obvious.

In many cities the city has an easement on any pedestrian sidewalk which crosses private property (ie, yours). The deal worked out by Salt Lake City and the Church of LDS would be like claiming the deed to your lot allows you to impose your own moral standards on passersby. Or, a bit more cynical, I could be escorted off a city sidewalk outside a Starbucks for saying "Starbucks coffee tastes like ass."
posted by nathan_teske at 1:31 AM on October 10, 2002


Isn't your church (religion) aaronshaf, the dominant church (religion) in the land? I think, by the way, you're all deceived by what you want the so badly the universe to be. But isn't it odd, you and the Mormon's selectiveness as to what brand of "believable" monotheism is or isn't?

The only reason you believe in what you believe is because many before you believed the same. You were born into it. Same with Mormons or Muslims. Don't you just wish you could set up shop in Mecca so that you can witness to those who were born into their own brand of monotheism?

It's arrogance that both your flavor of Christianity and the Mormon's flavor can't just make due with the world as it is, but must send out missionaries, insofar as it extends the perception among those who believe already that what the Body of Christ is doing is extraordinary and hence makes the adherents believe in it ever more.

And then you lean on the first amendment to do the dirty deed of demonizing your religionist adversaries, even though the higher-ups in your own predominant sects lean on the first amendment in the other direction so that Humanism and Secularism are quashed in the name of the noise your cohorts are expert in making.

And to call the Mormon Church big brother? That's a pathetic stretch, taken along with the presence of your own fundamentalist totalitarianism currently in power. Big Brother? Nice use of disingenuousness.
posted by crasspastor at 2:58 AM on October 10, 2002


I was once part of a protest, and in the course of things we were informed we had a right to the sidewalk as long as we did not impede the progress of anyone else walking on it.
posted by konolia at 3:33 AM on October 10, 2002


Slightly off topic:

The Mormon church claims that permitting free speech on the sidewalks would infringe on its right of free expression

It's this kind of argument that endangers freedom in countries which have freedom enshrined in law. It's a bit like the government saying that elections take away its freedom to do whatever it likes.
posted by Summer at 4:15 AM on October 10, 2002


oissubke - The fact of the matter is that the court says you are wrong. The Mormon church did attempt to create a First Amendment free zone, and they did attempt to suppress constitutional speech. Between taking your word on it and the Appeals court's word on it, I'll go with the court.

crasspastor - But isn't it odd, you and the Mormon's selectiveness as to what brand of "believable" monotheism is or isn't? The only reason you believe in what you believe is because many before you believed the same.

Actually, the Mormon church is handicapped in this arena by having the misfortune (relative to other well-known religions) of being demonstrably false in it's core mythology.
posted by NortonDC at 5:08 AM on October 10, 2002


Before the "why is religion so goofy" squad get started, I just want to posit that this is about American rights, not about a church's beliefs.

Actually, without the latter, there would be no need to defend the former, so it's about both.
posted by rushmc at 5:27 AM on October 10, 2002


As I understand it, the state of Utah is essentially for all practical purposes, a church state. This permeates the state schools and local governments.

The church decides. Anyone see a non-LDS representative from Utah go to DC? Is it possible to hold public office in Utah if you're non-LDS?

And did I read someone intimating that LDS is NOT fundamentalist? Ha! Tell that to a Mormon teen with raging hormones!!

The bigger picture is that the LDS do what they want inside the borders of Utah and the plaza is but one example.
posted by nofundy at 5:31 AM on October 10, 2002


This activity by the LDS was previously discussed here, I'm not calling a double post, just adding additional reference.
posted by DBAPaul at 6:17 AM on October 10, 2002


this was discussed before when the District Court decision came out. Some of the legal issues are fairly complicated and good arguments can be made on both sides, but I'm pleased with the way it came out. When you've got Mormon city officials dealing with the Mormon church, you have to wonder whether they are really going to have the interests of non-Mormons in mind when they are negotiating the sale of city property.
posted by boltman at 6:21 AM on October 10, 2002


you beat me to it, DBAPaul.
posted by boltman at 6:22 AM on October 10, 2002


The Rev. Tom Goldsmith of the Unitarian church said the restrictions were "a major affront to all people who have diverse opinions." He added that he hoped the ruling would be "a wonderful opportunity for healing between Mormons and non-Mormons

Boy is this guy optimistic! Yeah that is really going to heal the breech when protesters are allowed to carry on and the Mormons are forced to watch and listen.

Under an agreement with the city, challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and currently being reviewed by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the church is allowed to forbid certain activities there, including swearing and "offensive, indecent, obscene, lewd or disorderly speech."

This is pretty stringent. I fail to see how the city could have agreed to this. In essence they turned the plaza ( and the public sidewalk that runs through it) into high school.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:30 AM on October 10, 2002


oissubke - The fact of the matter is that the court says you are wrong. The Mormon church did attempt to create a First Amendment free zone, and they did attempt to suppress constitutional speech. Between taking your word on it and the Appeals court's word on it, I'll go with the court.

The church was not attempting to "suppress constitutional speech". They purchased a plot of land, and were protecting what they perceived to be their rights on that land. You would probably do the same. My understanding of the court decision was that it simply clarified what rights the church and the city had over the land, and found the original agreement between the two to be flawed. The church was acting in accordance with the original agreement. The court found that agreement to have been flawed. The church will evaluate the court decision and, unless they find some point worth appealing, they'll abide by it.

The LDS church is a law-abiding church, and it is perhaps such on a more fundamental level than most. Two well-known examples of someone unusual (by Protestant/Catholic standards) points of doctrine:

1. We believe the Constitution of the United States of America to be an inspired document. That means we place it roughly in the same class as scripture -- First Amendment and all. The leaders of the church fully realize that the amendment which is used by the protesters standing in front of our Holy Temple telling us we're all going to hell is the same one that we enjoy when our missionaries go knocking on doors and trying to tell people about the gospel. The church will never knowingly or willingly violate the U.S. Constitution.

2. We believe in the following the "law of the land", or as the twelfth article of faith puts it, "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law." There are few other religions or denominations that have obeying local law as a fundamental point of their faith.

The LDS church almost certainly purchased the land with the intention of trying to move protesters a bit further away from our sacred sites. It's hard to get in a good mood to attend the temple when you've got folks with backpacks and picket signs who came a long way for the sole purpose of making you feel miserable because of your beliefs. I don't deny that this was the church's intent -- in fact, I'm almost certain it was and I agree with them for doing it. There's nothing morally, ethically, or legally wrong with that.

The transaction went through, and the church attempted to enforce their rights politely but sternly. I'm sure some of the security guards weren't as quick on their feet as they should have been, and were perhaps out-of-line to some of the protesters.

But the church wasn't knowingly violating the law or the constitution by doing so. They were not trying to be "Big Brother". They were just taking advantage of their rights as owners of the land in front of a sacred location to try to keep a reverent atmosphere.

As I understand it (I'm not a lawyer so I could be mistaken) the court didn't find the church guilty of violating the agreement with the city, or of overextending their rights as landowners. Instead, they found that the original transaction with the city was flawed.

If that's indeed the case, the church will certainly abide by the law of the land. The Constitution is far more important to us than even trying to keep obnoxious people from making temple-goers miserable.

And while I'm at it....

But isn't it odd, you and the Mormon's selectiveness as to what brand of "believable" monotheism is or isn't?

The LDS church isn't "monotheistic" in the same way that Protestantism, Catholicism or other major Christian denominations are. We believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct individuals. Just wanted to clear that up. :-)
posted by oissubke at 6:48 AM on October 10, 2002


Boy is this guy optimistic! Yeah that is really going to heal the breech when protesters are allowed to carry on and the Mormons are forced to watch and listen.

That's the part that bothers us about the ever-present protesters. They preach peace and love while telling us that we're all going to hell, that we're satanic, etc. That's why you don't see Mormons with signs and clever slogans out protesting other religions.
posted by oissubke at 6:51 AM on October 10, 2002


Now how 'bout someone tells the Bush administration to take their "First Amendment Zones" that force protestors to the other side of whatever town the president is in and stuff 'em.
posted by dyaseen at 7:07 AM on October 10, 2002


As I understand it, the state of Utah is essentially for all practical purposes, a church state. This permeates the state schools and local governments.

Utah is not a church state. It's a state run by a lot of people who happen to be members of the church.

This isn't part of any grand conspiracy (the church believes in strict separate of church and state, often to a higher degree than other religions -- look into it sometime), but just a manifestation of the fact that members of the church are often patriotic and have been raised with the belief that we should actively participate in their communities.

If those not in the church aren't satisfied with their government leaders, they should run for office (or encourage others to do so) instead of implying some sort of Mormon conspiracy.
posted by oissubke at 7:12 AM on October 10, 2002


raised with the belief that we should actively participate in their communities.

Correction: "our" communities. Typo.
posted by oissubke at 7:13 AM on October 10, 2002


oissubke: Your restraint, thoughtfulness, and good humor are deeply impressive -- if more people could defend themselves that way, MeFi would be a far, far better place.

To certain others: I'm not at all religious myself, but religious people (like nonreligious people) have done good things as well as bad ones; I for one wouldn't want the world to be without Chartres, the Green Mosque in Bursa, the Divine Comedy, or "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." Of more immediate importance, MetaFilter is not some kind of court where the powers that be will finally decide how our lives are to be run for all eternity, so that it is vitally important to combat every last vestige of religion, or communism, or Lamarckism, or whatever your pet peeve is. It's... well, BlueTrain trademarked it. Discuss everything under the sun, but don't insult people's religions or their mothers. It makes Baby Jesus cry.
posted by languagehat at 7:30 AM on October 10, 2002


That's why you don't see Mormons with signs and clever slogans out protesting other religions.

Yet they still travel the world (presumably) assuming that anyone who doesn't hold the same beliefs as them would want to be "converted" from whatever it is they do believe.

Pretty much like all religions that resort to actively recruiting through missions, door-to-door hassling or whatever. Which, thinking about it, includes pretty much all of the organised ones.

As for the article, well, it's simple. I'd say if they own the pavement it's theirs to do with as they please (and eject who they want). If they don't, it's not. I don't know about over there, but I thought pavements always stood in a halfway house between public and private ownership. In which case, the appeal court's decision was probably to be expected.
posted by digiboy at 7:55 AM on October 10, 2002


Wow. So by all indications, there are now (like) five Mormons here at MeFi! Cool... and here I thought that I'd forever be the lone Latter-day Saint.

Anyway, all that aside, my feelings on this matter are all pretty well documented in the other threads on the subject.

But here's the overview: I've read the agreement, and from what I can tell, the Church owns the property out-right and the city maintains an easement of right-of-way (if memory serves, only during certain hours). In defining the easement as pertaining only to certain pedestrian traffic, the Church had language inserted that underscored that the plaza was only a thoroughfare, and not a forum.

It's a fine point, but from my reading it seems that the city has a limited easement, which is underscored by the limitations mentioned as opposed to a broad easement that is then unconstitutionally burdened. Of course, that's what courts are for... and this isn't over yet: the Church has already said that it will appeal, and I'm betting they'll win. The interesting drama will be to see how the folks clamoring for access will avail themselves of this little hiatus.
posted by silusGROK at 8:08 AM on October 10, 2002


The church does not have complete theocratic control of Utah, but its close enough. 80%+ of the state legislature, 90%+ of the sitting judges, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, both senators, most of the congressmen are Mormon. The state liquor board has ten members, nine of whom are Mormon men who have never taken a drink. No wonder the liquor laws in this state are so terribly confusing and mostly irrational.

Any important or newsworthy new law will have the legislatures on both sides of the aisle publicly consulting with their bishops or the church president as to guidance for their vote. If the Church weighs in on an issue, then the issue will most likely go the way the Church prefers. As a good recent example, environmentalists are courting the Church Presidency in hopes of getting a Church statement against the storage of nuclear waste in the western desert. They know if such a statement is made, then no politician is strong enough to stand against it.

If the Church wasn't such a secretive organization, this high level of control wouldn't seem quite so ominous. The organization has secret budgets, immense coffers, a tight grip on any institutional data, a dictatorial organization whose leaders at all levels are appointed, never elected, and whose level of control over the church's direction is total. And they're not the least bit shy about involving themselves in the political process. From using their millions to shut down ERA in the 70s, to recently using their millions to help pass Cali's prop 22, they're not shy about imposing their views inside or outside of Utah.

Is it any wonder that non-Mormons in this state feel a strong level of distrust over such an insular monolith which towers over the political landscape? And yes, a non-mormon could try running for office, as oissubke suggested, but, outside of Salt Lake City or Moab, you couldn't even get elected as dog catcher unless you had a firm link with the church.
posted by pandaharma at 8:11 AM on October 10, 2002


languagehat:

As long as a religious group involves itself in the political sphere of things, in which they expend time and money to affect the lives of non-believers, then such religions are fair game for criticism.

If they don't want to get attacked, then they don't have to play the game. But they can't have it both ways: interfering with the politcal process and then avoiding attacks by non-believers.
posted by pandaharma at 8:17 AM on October 10, 2002


80%+ of the state legislature, 90%+ of the sitting judges, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, both senators, most of the congressmen are Mormon. The state liquor board has ten members, nine of whom are Mormon men who have never taken a drink.

This sounds like the same argument made by marijuana advocates who criticise the government for being anti-pot. The problem is that potheads (a) seldom run for office, and (b) seldom vote.

Likewise, members of the church are taught old-fashioned, 1950's-style civic virtues. They're taught that they should be encouraged to vote. A few weeks ago our bishop read a letter from the first presidency to members of the church, encouraging them to vote but specifically refraining from supporting any party, platform, or candidate.

Any group concerned with civic affairs will typically be branded an oppressive conspiracy by those less concerned, for the simple reason that those who participate in their community wind up becoming district representatives, congressmen, governors, etc., while those who don't run for office, don't vote, etc., wind up not having their voice heard.

If you don't like your civic leadership, then I strongly recommend that you vote for other leaders, or run for office yourself. Participate in your community. Attend your district meetings, and let your voice be heard. Volunteer for and make contributions to those candidates you think would be worthy leaders. But don't fault us for doing the same.

And keep in mind that the separation of church and state certainly doesn't mean that only atheists should hold public office, or that elected officials should be pressured to ignore their religious beliefs.

A town with a very large Catholic population will likely have a Catholic majority in government. It doesn't imply that the Catholic church itself is running the government, but simply that many of the officials happen to be Catholic. That's not a theocracy, or a violation of the separation of church and state -- it's just the demographics of a region.
posted by oissubke at 8:49 AM on October 10, 2002


pandaharma: Absolutely, and I've made similar arguments myself. I'm not talking about that but about deliberately offensive language like: you're all deceived by what you want the so badly the universe to be.... The only reason you believe in what you believe is because many before you believed the same.... Don't you just wish you could set up shop in Mecca so that you can witness to those who were born into their own brand of monotheism? It's arrogance that both your flavor of Christianity and the Mormon's flavor can't just make due with the world as it is...
That's not honest criticism, it's "yer mama."
posted by languagehat at 8:59 AM on October 10, 2002


"If the Church wasn't such a secretive organization, this high level of control wouldn't seem quite so ominous. The organization has secret budgets, immense coffers, a tight grip on any institutional data, a dictatorial organization whose leaders at all levels are appointed, never elected, and whose level of control over the church's direction is total."

I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with the scripture that says that God's true church is going broke, votes on its leaders, and has no control of its direction. Could you point that one out to me? Maybe it was in Isaiah and I just didn't get it? :-)
posted by oissubke at 9:06 AM on October 10, 2002


The church does not have complete theocratic control of Utah, but its close enough. 80%+ of the state legislature, 90%+ of the sitting judges, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, both senators, most of the congressmen are Mormon.

Would you expect this to be otherwise in a state that is heavily LDS?

And yet, one of the more powerful positions is held by a non-LDS person, the mayor of Salt Lake City, a former ACLU backed attorney.

Any important or newsworthy new law will have the legislatures on both sides of the aisle publicly consulting with their bishops or the church president as to guidance for their vote.

Really? Being a member of said lay ministry, I'm still waiting for my first state govt. official to "consult" with me on their decisions. I really wish one would. I'd give them a piece of my mind on some of their idiotic decisions.

Is it any wonder that non-Mormons in this state feel a strong level of distrust over such an insular monolith which towers over the political landscape?

This kind of attitude is far more rare than you wish to think. I've had many frank discussions with neighbors and people I work with who are not members of the LDS church on many matters from the way the church handles things to local, state and national govt. decisions. At least with the non-LDS I know, the longer they have lived here, the less likely they are to have the attitude you ascribe to them.

And yes, a non-mormon could try running for office, as oissubke suggested, but, outside of Salt Lake City or Moab, you couldn't even get elected as dog catcher unless you had a firm link with the church.

Non-LDS people run for and get elected for positions in Utah. Your statement is just completely untrue. Personally, I've never asked the question of a persons religion when voting. Yes, it is usually quite well known if a person running for high office is LDS or not, but I couldn't tell you if the any of the local leaders or officials are LDS unless they live near me and I know them.
posted by Plunge at 9:10 AM on October 10, 2002


oissubke:

I live in a county which is 90% Mormon. How is my vote going to make a difference? This state is 70% Mormon and the Republican legislature recently redrew the districts so that the few consistently Democratic areas have been consolidated. They couldn't even tolerate the 20% minority and felt the need to reduce it further.

And once in power, they'll appoint the judges and they'll appoint the liquor board, ensuring these positions have a far greater number of Mormons than the general population. So, yes, with the significant and wonderful exception of SLC's mayor Rocky Anderson, the Mormons completely run things here and there's not much I or any other politically minded non-mormon can do about it. If you've spent any time at all in Utah, you'll know this is true. Since you've chosen to live outside of Utah and have previously made disparaging remarks about the state, I can assume you know its true.

I have no problem with any politician basing their decisions partly on their religious beliefs. However, openly discussing bills with President Hinckley or other church leaders before voting (and then voting with the leader's opinon) seems to blur the line. Combined with the dictatorial and secretive nature of the church, this leads to an obvious concern which even you could recognize.

Imposing my libertarian view of the world here would be like imposing your conservative view of the world upon Manhattan: it ain't going to happen no matter how civic minded we are.
posted by pandaharma at 9:20 AM on October 10, 2002


Really? Being a member of said lay ministry, I'm still waiting for my first state govt. official to "consult" with me on their decisions. I really wish one would. I'd give them a piece of my mind on some of their idiotic decisions.

Amen to that. If I were to ask my Bishop who I should vote for, he'd say "Why are you asking me?"

Personally, I've never asked the question of a persons religion when voting.

Same here. I vote Republican, not Mormon. I've voted for anti-Mormon candidates before simply because they were better qualified to run the state than were their opponents. :-)
posted by oissubke at 9:23 AM on October 10, 2002


members of the church are taught old-fashioned, 1950's-style civic virtues.

Sounds like fundamentalism to me. (I will avoid invoking the specter of this era, McCarthy.) :-)) Aaaahhh, the good ole fifties! (as seen through those rose colored glasses...)

Oissubke, thanks for your reasoned responses but I think you are portraying LDS in a much better light than is deserved. The political involvement of LDS is well known and documented and is not the benign influence you make it out to be.
Consider the Utah school system (something I've already made reference to.) In a technical sense it may not be in direct violation of the separation of church and state but when students spend half their school day in religious training and indoctrination that doesn't pass the smell test, in my opinion.

There are other examples that I'm sure you are aware of and are well trained and prepared to respond to. Still, thanks for the civil manner.
posted by nofundy at 9:25 AM on October 10, 2002


I live in a county which is 90% Mormon. How is my vote going to make a difference? This state is 70% Mormon and the Republican legislature recently redrew the districts so that the few consistently Democratic areas have been consolidated. They couldn't even tolerate the 20% minority and felt the need to reduce it further.

I think you're confusing "Mormon" and "conservative Republican". The two groups overlap, but they aren't the same.

If that's your problem, then you need to support your local Democractic party. Spread the word. Change things. Praise the virtues of the liberal viewpoint and encourage your friends and neighbors to vote Democratic.

But don't get "This state is 70% Republican" confused with "This state is 70% Mormon". Many Mormons happen to be conservative, but that doesn't mean you should point the church as the source of your displeasure with your current government.

The Republican legislature may have gerrymandered, but that's the GOP, not the church. It was to get more Republicans, not specifically more church members.

Utah's a very Republican state. You're in the same unfortunate position as a right-winger in New York City, or a religious conservative in San Francisco. You've got an upstream political battle. But that's the fault of the political demographics of the region, not church scheming to take over the world.
posted by oissubke at 9:31 AM on October 10, 2002


Consider the Utah school system (something I've already made reference to.) In a technical sense it may not be in direct violation of the separation of church and state but when students spend half their school day in religious training and indoctrination that doesn't pass the smell test, in my opinion.

Is that required by the state? Do all students have to attend seminary? If so, I wasn't aware of that, and in that case I certainly agree with you.

Around here (Arizona), nobody's required to attend seminary, and the seminary isn't funded by the state.

Is that not the case in Utah?
posted by oissubke at 9:33 AM on October 10, 2002


Most of my favorite Utah politicians have been non-lds. Many of the lds candidates (such as Chris Canon) make a point of dropping insider terms and lingo when campaigning (nudge, nudge, wink wink) which is kind of lame.

"Actually, the Mormon church is handicapped in this arena by having the misfortune (relative to other well-known religions) of being demonstrably false in it's core mythology."

Please raise your hand if your opinion of mormonism has ever been changed by an online discussion. I thought so.

As a mormon (socialist/democrat/intellectual) who has recently moved back to Utah after ten years, I find this discussion interesting, and I think Ouissake (sp?) is doing a fine job. But I wonder how much difference it makes.

Personally, the whole easement situation seems a little slippery and problematic. Maybe the church should just give it back or create a bridge that is private property, and turn the street back over to the protesters.

As far as sending out missionaries goes, it seems like most of the posters in this thread are trying to convince someone of something, except that they don't have to bother to leave the comfort of their keyboard. (myself included, I suppose. Except for those two years in Micronesia). Nyaaaah.
posted by mecran01 at 9:34 AM on October 10, 2002


"I think you're confusing "Mormon" and "conservative Republican". The two groups overlap, but they aren't the same. "

As a Mormon Democrat, my experience has been that Utah mormons and politicians very, very, frequently conflate mormonism and republican politics, and have a very difficult time separating their politics and their personal beliefs. Really.
posted by mecran01 at 9:37 AM on October 10, 2002


Consider the Utah school system (something I've already made reference to.) In a technical sense it may not be in direct violation of the separation of church and state but when students spend half their school day in religious training and indoctrination that doesn't pass the smell test, in my opinion.

The religious training is called the seminary program and it is a one hour a day class. Students are not required to take it. It does not take up half the day and is not state sponsored nor is it state funded.

This class is taught around the country wherever there are enough LDS youth to warrant it. Some areas of the country allow the students to take it during normal school hours, other do not. In those cases, it is usually taught before regular school begins.

I personally spent part of my youth in a decidely non-LDS area but was still allowed to take the course during regular school hours.

If you need some nasal spray for that nose, let me know.
posted by Plunge at 9:42 AM on October 10, 2002


As a Mormon Democrat, my experience has been that Utah mormons and politicians very, very, frequently conflate mormonism and republican politics, and have a very difficult time separating their politics and their personal beliefs. Really.

I agree. The church is not "fully conservative Republican", though many mistake it as being such. The church is the church and conservatives are conservatives. There's no 1:1 relationship, though there's a significant amount of overlap.

Some would call a "Mormon Democrat" an oxymoron, but I don't think it is. The Democractic party isn't the evil entity that many conservatives make it out to be -- quite the contrary, it has many noble and well-thought-out principles.

To be perfectly honest, I keep wondering if Libertarianism is perhaps a better reflection of church doctrine than even conservativism. The fact that they want to legalize marijuana and prostitution, though, keeps throwing me off. :-)
posted by oissubke at 9:57 AM on October 10, 2002


The religious training is called the seminary program and it is a one hour a day class. Students are not required to take it. It does not take up half the day and is not state sponsored nor is it state funded.

Thanks Plunge.

Wouldn't preventing the church from having voluntary, non-state-funded seminary classes for anyone who wants to participate be a violation of the separation of church and state, rather than a protection of it? Or am I just crazy?
posted by oissubke at 9:59 AM on October 10, 2002


As a Mormon Democrat...

Geez, we haven't gotten around to asking your for your membership card back yet?!?!

(J/K)
posted by Plunge at 10:01 AM on October 10, 2002


I should remark, for any Utah residents who remotely care about this discussion, I currently live in Utah County, which was probably a very bad choice on my part. (What can I say? I was suckered in by this great house on a mountain with this lovely view of the lake and Bambi peacefully nibbling at a bush across the road...)

My views would probably be much more moderate if I were in Park City, SLC, or Moab., but in this la-la land of the valley, as a former urbanite, I feel as if I'm in some sort of alien b-movie cliche where I wouldn't entirely be surprised to see the residents staggering out of their houses at midnight with rotting flesh and a glazed expression, muttering "Brains! I must eat Brains!" Oh well, at least the mountain climbing and skiing are great.

I know Mormons aren't zombies and, in yet another cliche, some of my better friends are Mormons. I know pro-choice Mormons, gay Mormons, and even, gasp, Mormons who consistently vote Democratic.

But, in this candyland, its easy to get a very one-sided portrait of the religion and its adherents and its a rather frightening image. And, yes, around here Republicans and Mormons are almost completely merged as to their politcal philosophy, hence one tends to think of the two as one, especially when the Republican politico's tend to do things in the name of the church, conservative groups such as the Eagle Forum spout inanities loudly in the name of the Church, Packer says something obnoxious in the name of the Church, and most of the people around me seem to nod their heads in happy agreement.

So, its probably time to sell the house and move back to the city.
posted by pandaharma at 10:05 AM on October 10, 2002


I'm quite the athiest, but Richard Dutcher's film God's Army made me much more sympathetic in regards to LDS missionaries.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:09 AM on October 10, 2002


Atheist I meant. Although I'm quite the athiest atheist you'll ever meet
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:14 AM on October 10, 2002


I'm quite the athiest, but Richard Dutcher's film God's Army made me much more sympathetic in regards to LDS missionaries.

I just watched Brigham City a few days ago, also by Dutcher. Great movie, but not quite what I was expecting. The wife and I were planning on an evening with a cheesy Mormon movie (*cough*Singles Ward*cough*), but instead got a pretty good (in the sense that it made you feel tense, worried, suspicious, etc.), character-driven murder mystery where a Mormon town was the setting, but not the point of the movie itself. Fine film, as far as murder mysteries go.
posted by oissubke at 10:18 AM on October 10, 2002


I actually saw Brigham City before I knew anything about Dutcher's beliefs. Had an interest discussion after the film about the whole LDS angle and what the intention might have been. I'm surprised at how much I'm looking forward to The Prophet.

(Here ends the Richard Dutcher based thread hijack)
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:28 AM on October 10, 2002


(Here ends the Richard Dutcher based thread hijack)

That's what you think! What I'm wondering is if Dutcher's going to play Bro. Joseph himself, or if he'll get a different actor for the lead role.

Dutcher's a good actor, but he just doesn't have the nose. :-)
posted by oissubke at 10:34 AM on October 10, 2002


The LDS church almost certainly purchased the land with the intention of trying to move protesters a bit further away from our sacred sites.

Which is problematic; the state shouldn't be in the business of privatizing things in order to allow suppression of locally-unpopular speech.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:35 AM on October 10, 2002


Back to the original topic -- take the typical suburban street as an example. Your property extends to the street curb, but the city has a public easement for the sidewalk that crosses your property. You pay property taxes on all the square footage including the sidewalk. You are responsible for shoveling snow from the walk and can be sued if someone slips and falls. You are responsible for maintenance of the grass strip between the sidewalk and curb. Yet the city's easement means that you cannot block passage on the sidewalk or prevent protestors from standing on the sidewalk in front of your house. So the LDS situation is common to most property owners. You own the property and are responsible for it yet the public retains certain rights to it. The only question in the LDS case is whether the city is free to negotiate away the rights that normally apply to a public easement.
posted by JackFlash at 10:43 AM on October 10, 2002


So, Pandaharma... you're one of _those_ folks... the ones who pray the earthquake never comes.

How's it feel living on the fault line?

: )

As for me, I like political pluralism, so I tend to vote Democrat (though I voted for Nader in 2000)... but I'd probably vote Republican if I were in Massachusetts.

As for the Church "giving back the street"... fat chance. They spent a year digging several stories down and expanding their HQ parking, et cetera under the street... and the large vents for the structure fill a good amount of the former street area.
posted by silusGROK at 10:45 AM on October 10, 2002


Brigham City was a creepy movie. I liked it. I'd classify it as "really good made-for-tv murder mystery".

"I should remark, for any Utah residents who remotely care about this discussion, I currently live in Utah County, which was probably a very bad choice on my part. (What can I say? I was suckered in by this great house on a mountain with this lovely view of the lake and Bambi peacefully nibbling at a bush across the road...)"

I live 15 miles west of Lehi in Utah county. I'm 45 minutes from Salt Lake. One can hear coyotes yipping in the morning, our development has no streetlights so some residents go stargazing from their backyards. The mountains are awesome. I only hope we get a lot of snow this winter so I can ski out my backyard. And, for the most part, I agree with your description of Utah county residents.
posted by mecran01 at 10:47 AM on October 10, 2002


JackFlash: not all easements are created equal... the whole concept of an easement is to grant the government limited rights vis a vis a parcel. In this case, the easement was _very_ limited, and folks are trying to expand the easement after the fact.

I think the Church will prevail on appeal.
posted by silusGROK at 10:48 AM on October 10, 2002


Actually oissubke, ruo_xenophobe, the Church most probably bought the land to do just what it did: significantly expand their parking and operations infrastructure for their world headquarters. The plaza up-top was probably just icing on the cake.
posted by silusGROK at 10:52 AM on October 10, 2002


I think it's also interesting that the church was there (on the spot of the easment) a while before there was even a city around it. Technically I guess the church owned the "territory" around Salt Lake in the 1800s which then became Salt Lake City property, which was then purchased back from the city, with the easment clause in place. And just so everyone knows, the site is one big sidewalk with fountains and stuff, it's not just "surrounded" by sidewalks.

On a sort of unrelated note: I've suspended free speech rights in my home. If you want to insult me on my property, I'll kindly ask you to leave.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:08 AM on October 10, 2002


Dutcher is great. Brigham City was 'meh' as a murder mystery but it was one of the best religious films I've ever seen. Even as a deeply agnostic skeptic, I felt a bit weepy during the silent sacrament scene.

I'm very interested to see 'The Prophet' as well and I'm curious to see if he'll make Joseph into a three-dimensional character. He was a very interesting man who was way ahead of his time in many ways. However, he also did things which seem rather underhanded to me, things which aren't mentioned much by the Church. So I'm hoping for a portrait of a great but flawed man who lived life fully, instead of the sanitized and safe portrait found in 'An American Prophet'.
posted by pandaharma at 11:11 AM on October 10, 2002


I should remark, for any Utah residents who remotely care about this discussion, I currently live in Utah County, which was probably a very bad choice on my part. (What can I say? I was suckered in by this great house on a mountain with this lovely view of the lake and Bambi peacefully nibbling at a bush across the road...)

/me wonders if this is one of his non-LDS neighbors he mentioned earlier...
posted by Plunge at 11:14 AM on October 10, 2002


Every large institution is sneaky, i.e. they don't broadcast their intentions.
posted by mecran01 at 11:33 AM on October 10, 2002


Actually oissubke, ruo_xenophobe, the Church most probably bought the land to do just what it did: significantly expand their parking and operations infrastructure for their world headquarters. The plaza up-top was probably just icing on the cake.

Nah, they'd already bought the subsurface rights. The surface plaze itself was a separate sale and deal.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:52 AM on October 10, 2002


oissubke I live in Utah and Salt Lake City. If you had been following this issue for the past few years there where preconditions made between the city and the church. The city sold the land to the church conditional ASKING that the church to keep it open to the public; and specifically asking them NOT to infringe on the the rights of the general public to assembly and exercise their right to free speech. The church broke their word in essence and that is why there are a lot of people that are angry and feel that their good faith in the church was misplaced. Also if you look at the LAW it's self there is something called "public easement" that gives the city and the public A RIGHT to express there first amendment rights on the the property despite the fact the Church owns the land. Read it for yourself in the Salt Lake Tribune.
posted by tljenson at 11:59 AM on October 10, 2002


tjenson: Did you read any of this thread?
posted by languagehat at 12:08 PM on October 10, 2002


tjenson said:

The city sold the land to the church conditional ASKING that the church to keep it open to the public; and specifically asking them NOT to infringe on the the rights of the general public to assembly and exercise their right to free speech. The church broke their word in essence and that is why there are a lot of people that are angry and feel that their good faith in the church was misplaced.

His linked article said:

Nearly four years ago, Corradini and LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley announced the deal. And in April 1999, City Council members sealed it, selling the block of Main Street to the church for $8.1 million. They reserved the easement, but limited it with a laundry list of rules drafted by church and city attorneys: no smoking, sunbathing, bicycling or "engaging in any illegal, offensive, indecent, obscene, lewd or disorderly speech, dress or conduct."
At the same time, the city granted the church the exclusive right to broadcast speeches and music and distribute literature. Church security guards would determine what was "offensive" and call city police to enforce the rules.


Hmmm... according to the article tjenson linked to, the restrictions on the easement were there from the beginning.

Not saying whether it is right or not, at least according to this article they did NOT ask them to allow full access.

It will be interesting to see what happens. As stated earlier, the LDS church will appeal, but I also feel they might just be waiting for a more sympathetic mayor to come along and sell them the easement.
posted by Plunge at 12:20 PM on October 10, 2002


Yes, i've been reading the thread and yes I know that that Salt Lake Tribune is vehicle for Mormon propaganda. Go to the library and read the Tribune from the past few years. I was short sided to link to one article. MY MISTAKE, yes I admit it I was stupid and I didn't do the research; but I still contend that doesn't refute my point. It just makes it a pain in the a** for me to go and scour the internet for all of the relevant articles. I am on side of the lawyers and judges whom made the decision. They talked to both parties and have researched this more then you or I have. They are basically of the same opinion as me. I wonder Plunge what they would think of your well reasoned post? Let's not try and over generalize and simplify this issue because of some personal agenda. Or maybe because this issue isn't important enough for us justify spending hours researching what the real facts of the issue are. As for my understanding of the issue I would qualify myself by saying I have researched it by having lived in this town for 30 years and, and having read the Salt Tribune for the last 15 years. I think that is good enough to make a informed decision what about you? How well do you know the issue and the facts? It's easy to over generalize. Let's keep this civil.
posted by tljenson at 12:52 PM on October 10, 2002


I thought I was being civil about it and no I haven't researched it. I went off the information you gave.

Myself, the last time I was in the plaza area was during the olympics, before that, during Christmas to see the lights. It really makes no difference to me.

The comment about them purchasing the easement came again from the article you linked to which said that this is an option that has been rejected by the current mayor.

Mayor Rocky Anderson held a news conference. Unusually cautious and subdued, Anderson says the city probably will not join the church in an appeal. And he will not sell the easement to the church -- that would be a "betrayal." (In city government, the power to buy and sell property rests with the mayor.)

I'm trying to see where my reasoning was wrong, or are you saying now that the article is wrong and jaded? I'm also wondering where I said something the attorneys wouldn't agree with. I quoted you, I quoted the article. I made a couple of comments. Please point out where I was rude or uncivil.
posted by Plunge at 1:13 PM on October 10, 2002


To summarize pretty much everything that has been said from the beginning of this thread to the end:

This is a matter of legal definitions, and has nothing to do with church doctrine, policy, or precedures. The city sold some property to the church with certain rights, privilidges, expectations, etc. There has been some misunderstanding and/or disagreement about those conditions, and they are going before the court.

The church fully supports the United States judicial system, and will abide by the legal outcome of court procedings. If they appeal the decision, it's simply because they're looking out for their rights along the lines provided by the judicial system. You, I, and anyone else would do the same.

There's really not much of an issue here. This isn't a religious or political topic, but rather an update on an ongoing legal issue, the core of which is the clarification of the conditions (and the constitutionality thereof) of the sale of the land.

Come to think of it, all this discussion later, this was really a pretty dull front page post. :-)
posted by oissubke at 1:14 PM on October 10, 2002


Plunge forgive and forget. I have no ill will.
posted by tljenson at 1:18 PM on October 10, 2002


The only question in the LDS case is whether the city is free to negotiate away the rights that normally apply to a public easement

This to me is the nub, and the question I keep coming back to. My understanding is that "the city" (which would be city council members who are most probably members of the Morman church) sold the rights of all the citizens down the river, Morman and Non-Morman. No bicycling? No sunbathing? No lewd dress (and as determined by whom)? No freedom of speech? So was that legal for the city council to sell off the rights? Apparently not, according to the Federal Appeals Court. The LDS church can and will appeal, but it is most probable that the higher up they go, the farther away from Morman-dominated thinking they will find themselves.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:48 PM on October 10, 2002


tljenson: No problem. You've actually given me the incentive to start reading up on the issue.

thanks
posted by Plunge at 1:52 PM on October 10, 2002


Morman

Wasn't he one of the guys on the old He-Man cartoon?
posted by oissubke at 2:00 PM on October 10, 2002


and, just how bony was maroni?
posted by quonsar at 3:29 PM on October 10, 2002


mecran01 - Please raise your hand if your opinion of mormonism has ever been changed by an online discussion. I thought so.

Another stellar example of openmindedness and intellectual curiousity.
posted by NortonDC at 7:05 PM on October 10, 2002


Another stellar example of openmindedness and intellectual curiousity.

That's really funny coming from you. :-)
posted by oissubke at 9:46 PM on October 10, 2002


Really? Did I ignore what anyone has to say? Did I try to shut any speakers down? Did I declare that online discussions are a waste of time, while participating in one?
posted by NortonDC at 8:49 AM on October 11, 2002


Really? Absolutely.

Did I ignore what anyone has to say? Yes.

Did I try to shut any speakers down? Yes.

Did I declare that online discussions are a waste of time, while participating in one? No, I'll grant you that one. You still seem to be in the naive phase of thinking you're accomplishing something here. The rest of us are just killing time at work. :-)
posted by oissubke at 12:15 PM on October 11, 2002


Did I ignore what anyone has to say? Yes.

You'll have to show where I ignored civil comments directed at me. To do so would have been rude and unlike me.

Did I try to shut any speakers down? Yes.

This, frankly, is a lie.
posted by NortonDC at 12:22 PM on October 11, 2002


This, frankly, is a lie.

Don't call me Shirley.
posted by oissubke at 12:42 PM on October 11, 2002


Norton, oi-boy is pulling your finger. Sheesh... move on already (or at least post something more interesting)!
posted by silusGROK at 2:30 PM on October 11, 2002


Oissubke's Law: The first one to take himself seriously loses the conversation. :-)
posted by oissubke at 3:46 PM on October 11, 2002


Once it was deleted as a FPP, I thought for sure aaronshaf would repost here...

*cups mouth, yells into the void... "aaron... aaron..."*
posted by silusGROK at 3:00 PM on October 22, 2002


« Older   |   Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post