Free speech zones suspended in Brigham City

Published: Friday, Sept. 14 2012 8:00 a.m. MDT

"The restraining order asking that they not enforce it is kind of moot, but the issue itself remains very important," he said. "We continue to believe it's way over-broad, and if they did try to enforce it, it couldn't be enforced constitutionally because it covers basically any speech and requires a permit for it."

Mejia said the city has agreed not to enforce the ordinance "indefinitely" and will give 10 days' notice if that changes. Mejia said the ACLU would again try to obtain a temporary restraining order if such a situation arises.

In the meantime, Mejia said he hopes the court and Brigham City will review the ordinance.

"We hope they've looked at their ordinance and realized there are problems," he said. "For those reasons, the lawsuit continues."

The news release said the city's ordinance was passed in 2010 and is similar to those utilized in other cities.

"Salt Lake City has such an ordinance which the federal court has upheld as constitutional in balancing the rights of citizens and visitors who wish to engage in protected activities while advancing the interests of public safety," it states.

Kendall Koyle came from the Burley, Idaho, area with his family, including family members from Montpelier, Idaho, Duchesne County and Logan. Their experience was also a pleasant one.

"There's opposition in all things," Koyle said. "People have their rights, their free speech."

John Ficklin, a LDS Church volunteer working the corner where at least one Main Street Church member has taken camp before, said he has lived in Brigham City for 12 years. The fact that members of the Main Street Church were at the open house surprised him, "not one bit."

"In fact, the first time I came here and saw protestors, I knew exactly who it was," Ficklin said. "They're probably the anti-Mormon church in Brigham."

They hold signs and hand out magazines, he said, but they haven't really been disruptive at all. He said they're just trying to "be known" in a predominantly LDS area.

"I think they stand out here to get their 10 minutes of fame," Ficklin said. "They weren't bothering me. This is public. The thing is, they wanted to come in by the buses, which is a safety hazard."

Sweet said being kept from the bus areas curtailed his efforts "to a great degree." In the 23 years he has handed out pamphlets at temple open houses — traveling as far as England to do so — this was the first time he had ever been restricted in any way, Sweet said.

"We felt our First Amendment rights were being violated," he said. "I'd like everyone to know the main reason we're out here is because we love the Latter-day Saints. I personally have never been a Latter-day Saint, but I have a real love for the Mormon people."

Nita Seely and her husband, Glen, traveled to the open house from Salt Lake City. They'd heard of the ordinance issue and were glad when they arrived to find it wouldn't impact their visit.

"I'm glad to see it's a peaceful, lovely day," Nita Seely said. "I've seen (demonstrators) down in Salt Lake, but not anything bad or terrible. … It takes away from the peacefulness and makes it so it's contentious."

Bob Pilch of Puyallup, Wash., stood on the southwest corner of the temple just after 4 p.m. Friday holding a sign reading, "According to God, how many Gods exist?" and having a lively discussion with volunteers. Pilch said he was not there on behalf of any church in Brigham City or his home state.

"I go to a half-dozen of these things a year," he said. "I'm here for general conference. … I'm sharing the truth about the Mormon Church and the Bible with LDS people I've come across."

Though Pilch is not a party to the lawsuit, he said he had been made aware of the ordinance and its requirements.

"I personally felt the restrictions were unwarranted," he said. "I thought they were a deliberate move to restrict our freedoms. … It was very broad. Generic."

Still, Pilch said he was able to talk to several people from his post on the corner and that he has been able to engage people and distribute the newspaper he carried with him.

"I've had people get upset," he said. "I understand that. We're challenging their core belief."

Ellis Howard, of Tremonton, was working as a security officer Friday and said he had heard there had been minor problems — a woman trying to enter the temple with a camera or a man who was yelling. For the most part, he said, "it's been pretty peaceful."

"It's just routine," Howard said. "It doesn't bother me in any way. We live in America, and we believe in freedom of speech and freedom of religion."

The LDS Church is scheduled to dedicate the temple on Sept. 23.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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