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Brigham City "Free Speech Zone" Ordinance Lawsuit Settled After City Repeals Ordinance

11 February 2013 Published in Newsroom

The Main Street Church of Brigham City has settled its lawsuit challenging Brigham City’s “Free Speech Zone” Ordinance. The suit alleged that the Ordinance violated the Utah and United States Constitutions because it required a permit for almost any conceivable form of public expression and imposed civil and criminal penalties for failing to comply. The ACLU of Utah filed the suit on behalf of Main Street Church after the City relied on the Ordinance to bar the church from passing out pamphlets on certain sidewalks during the Brigham City LDS Temple Open House. After the lawsuit was filed, the City agreed to allow a limited number of Main Street Church representatives to pass out pamphlets on all sidewalks. Brigham City later repealed the Ordinance entirely. That repeal cleared the way for the out-of-court settlement the parties reached.

 “It is disappointing that it took a lawsuit for the City to see that the Ordinance needed to be repealed, but we are glad to see it go and to have this case resolved.”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 the Main Street Church. “When we were finally allowed on all of the sidewalks during the Open House, we had no trouble at all,” said Pastor Catlin. “Being able to freely engage in respectful dialogue even when we don’t agree is one of the things that makes America great,” he concluded.

In statements explaining why it adopted the “Free Speech Zone” Ordinance, the City has cited safety concerns. “While cities are allowed to take measures to protect the public, the courts have made clear that wholesale restrictions on civil liberties in the name of safety cannot stand,” said John Mejia, Legal Director of the ACLU of Utah. “State statutes and city ordinances already on the books addressed the City’s concerns, so repealing the Ordinance restored civil rights and did not compromise people’s safety,” he continued.

Main Street Church’s main goals were accomplished when its representatives were allowed to freely pamphlet and when Brigham City repealed the Ordinance, so Main Street Church agreed to forgo the nominal monetary damages it requested in the complaint. The parties also agreed that the ACLU of Utah would receive attorney fees and court costs for its legal work on the case.To view the important documents in this case, go to www.acluutah.org/MSC_v_BrighamCity.html

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