Free Speech Ordinance Agreement Reached Around LDS Temple in Brigham City

Free Speech Ordinance Agreement Reached Around LDS Temple in Brigham City

Brigham City has settled a portion of the lawsuit filed this week by Main Street Church.  The Open House for the newly-constructed LDS Brigham City Temple took place for several weeks and ends tomorrow.  Some 300,000 to 400,000 people were projected to attend, placing a significant burden on City resources.  Public parking is extremely limited and the private property on which the Temple sits permits relatively limited parking.  The LDS Church arranged to bus attendees to and from the Open House in order to alleviate traffic concerns while accommodating hundreds of thousands of attendees. 

Brigham City “supports and upholds the First Amendment’s guarantee of the right of free expression as a fundamental element of our democratic system of government, and encourages the expression of such speech and discourse.”  The City established three Free Speech Zones on public sidewalks that were adjacent to the private property on which the LDS Temple sits.  Those Free Speech Zones allowed protesters, demonstrators and pamphleteers to engage in protected activities in three locations on public property/sidewalks adjacent to the Temple and gave them complete access to every corner around the Temple. 

The City’s interest is paramount in protecting all rights and interests of its citizens and those who visit the City, including the First Amendment rights of speech, religious exercise and assembly.  In 2010 the City passed its Free Speech Ordinance to ensure the speech rights of persons who wished to engage in organized protests, demonstrations, and the like on public property while also ensuring the rights of those against whom any such protests or demonstrations may be directed, and to do so while taking measured steps to protect against harm to persons and property in the interests of peaceful dialogue.  The City adopted an ordinance similar to one adopted by other Utah cities.  Salt Lake City has such an ordinance which the Federal Court has upheld as constitutional in balancing the rights and interests of citizens and visitors who wish to engage in protected activities while advancing the interests of public safety.

Main Street Church sued the City this week seeking additional access to disseminate pamphlets to and engage in dialogue with Open House attendees in locations outside the designated Free Speech Zones, including congested areas where buses drop off and pick up Open House attendees.  With the Brigham City Temple Open House ending Saturday September 15, 2012, in its effort to avoid costly litigation the City has agreed temporarily not to enforce its Free Speech Ordinance so long as the Main Street Church agrees to limit its participation on each side of the Temple to four protesters.  Main Street Church also expressly agrees that all persons who are present on its behalf shall not interfere with or cause disruption with vehicular traffic, the flow of pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks or the flow of pedestrians as they enter and depart from buses and move between the buses and private property.  All remaining laws and ordinances remain in effect. 

The City maintains that its Free Speech Ordinance meets all constitutional protections while advancing its compelling interest in public safety.