SALT LAKE CITY — Two men were cited for trespassing by Salt Lake City police after security personnel for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints excused them from church property.
According to a blog posted at www.blueinredzion.com, Derek Jones and his partner, Matthew Aune, were holding hands as they passed through the pedestrian mall east of the Salt Lake Temple as they returned home from a concert at the Gallivan Center. Aune hugged and kissed Jones in the plaza, at which point church security asked the men to leave because they were being inappropriate.
"Two individuals came on church property and were politely asked to stop engaging in inappropriate behavior — just as any other couple would have been," said Kim Farah, spokeswoman for The church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a prepared statement. "They became argumentative and used profanity and refused to leave the property. They were arrested and then given a citation for criminal trespass by SLPD."
In the blog written by Jones, he protests that public displays of affection are a common occurrence between heterosexual couples and they aren't excused from the property. After a period of questioning of Aune and Jones on the validity of their removal, security officers handcuffed the pair, emptied their pockets and escorted them off the property, the blog states.
Salt Lake City police officers were called to the LDS-owned Main Street Plaza after church security detained the two men. Police gave the men trespassing citations, class C misdemeanors, escorted them off the property and released them.
Anytime a private property owner asks someone to leave and that person refuses, it becomes a trespassing case, said Salt Lake police Sgt. Robin Snyder.
"Under city ordinance, they were trespassing. Why they were asked to leave has nothing to do with us," she said. "We don't enforce policy, we enforce the law."
Snyder said investigators had evidence that LDS security asked the men to leave, and they refused. As an example, Snyder said, it would be the same as a person asked to leave a fast-food restaurant for trying to use the restroom but not being a paying customer. Police cannot stand in front of the door and arrest a person for trying to use the facilities, she said. But once the restaurant asks someone to leave and that person refuses, then they can be arrested for trespassing.
Jones did not return messages left on his voice mail Friday.
Contributing: Pat Reavy