ACLU Defends Church in Utah


Here is yet another example of the ACLU defending the rights of a Christian church, which should cause more than a bit of cognitive dissonance in your average wingnut (if there was any cognition going on at all, that is). The ACLU of Utah has filed suit in defense of the free speech rights of a church to hand out literature:

Today, the ACLU of Utah filed a complaint on behalf of the Main Street Church of Brigham City challenging Brigham City’s “Free Speech Zone” Ordinance. The suit alleges that on its face, the ordinance violates the Utah and United States Constitutions because it requires a permit for almost any conceivable form of public expression and imposes civil and criminal penalties for failing to comply. This ordinance could subject many unsuspecting people in Brigham City to liability for engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment.

Because Brigham City is actively barring Main Street Church from two public sidewalks in the city, Main Street Church has also moved for a temporary restraining order to immediately prohibit Brigham City from continuing to restrict Main Street Church’s First Amendment rights to assembly, free speech, and free exercise of religion in a traditional public forum.

The ACLU of Utah believes that Brigham City’s “Free Speech Zone” Ordinance turns the entire city into a place where free speech, free assembly and free exercise of religion are prohibited until people are granted a special permit designating free speech zones where they are allowed to engage in those activities. The process of granting such permits is controlled by the city’s police chief, attorney, and administrator, who are given absolute discretion of how, when, and why to establish such zones, and have taken it upon themselves to limit the exact nature of what the activities will include and how many people may be involved. Failure to comply with these restrictions will mean civil and criminal penalties for those engaged in activities that are clearly protected by the First Amendment.

There are hundreds of such cases filed by the ACLU — but remember, that evil communist organization is trying to destroy Christianity and remove it from the “public square.”

Comments

  1. trucreep says

    The “Free Speech Zone” sounds a lot like the “Academic Freedom” bills creationists try to push through – Legislating something that’s already put in place.

  2. blf says

    The quoted article didn’t seem to explain exactly what a “Free Speech Zone” is. From Reuters:

    The ordinance in question requires any individual or group wishing to stage a demonstration, hand out literature or engage in other forms of public expression to seek a municipal permit establishing an approved “free-speech” zone for that activity.

    The permit, if granted, can include limits on the time, place and number of participants. Violations are punishable by civil fines of up to $750 or a misdemeanor criminal prosecution that carries a penalty of up to 90 days in jail.

    Good grief!

  3. says

    What was block quoted above does not say (and I did not read the linked article), but if they are charging for those permits, that literally takes the free out of free speech.

  4. raven says

    It’s just Utah.

    They pass laws like this a lot.

    A few decades ago, a city near Brigham city fired its librarian. Because they didn’t like one of the books in the library. It was a forgettable R rated paperback type novel.

    I was so appalled, I donated to her defense campaign, not much because I was a broke student at the time.

    1. She won her court case based on being in the civil service and the county officials who fired her had no right to fire her.

    2. The leading county official lost his next election. It’s apparently possible to be so fascist even the Mormons won’t voe for you. (Although it might never happen again.)

    saltlaketribune Banning books

    Published June 5, 2012 1:01 am

    And in 1991 parents complained to the Davis County School Board because John Gardner’s Grendel was required reading in the English curriculum at Viewmont High School. The book was removed as a class requirement.

    The practice of banning certain books has a disturbing history during the 20th century that doesn’t bear revisiting here. But we had hoped the bigotry and provincialism that usually prompt such actions would dwindle with better education and understanding.

    Apparently not.

    The Davis County School District is now targeting books for children that portray families headed by same-sex parents and a book with the message that bullying of homosexual teenagers is wrong. In Davis County, it seems, book banning based on intolerance is alive and well.

    The issue was prompted by a parent’s complaint about an acclaimed book titled In Our Mothers’ House that was chosen by librarians specifically because there are children in the district with two same-sex parents. Librarians, rightly, wanted to make those children feel included and also wanted to help other children understand that various types of families are all acceptable. Totally Joe, about a gay teenager who is bullied, glimpses the suffering of gay teens, who all too often take their own lives.

    Now the district is on a witch hunt, asking district librarians to report other books with gay or lesbian characters.

  5. John Hinkle says

    The problem with the ACLU, in the wingnut-o-sphere, is that they advocate for everyone’s civil rights. Any good white, privileged, fundie, wingnut Christian knows that only white, privileged, fundie, wingnut Christians have rights. The others get only the rights “granted” to them by wing-fundies, and that’s in flux depending on circumstances.

  6. d cwilson says

    It won’t make any difference. I’ve encountered wingnuts who, even after being shown a whole list of cases where the ACLU has advocated for the right of Christians, still insist that the group is out to destroy Christianity because Derp-a-derp-derp-derp-derp.

  7. raven says

    Welcome to the Mormon theocracy of Utah.

    A hobby for some Mormons when they are bored is to go into public libraries and find some book that upsets them and try to ban it. In reality probably half the books would qualify.

    John Gardners “Grendel”, banned in Davis county, is a good book and pretty tame. It’s about on the level of Spiderman and Batman comic books in terms of offensiveness. Which I’m sure also terrifies them.

    IIRC, they built a new temple in Brigham city.

    Brigham City banned church flier distribution near new Mormon …
    ww.deseretnews.com/…/Brigham-City-banned-church-flier-distribut…

    5 days ago – Free speech zones suspended in Brigham City. Sept. 14, 2012 … It contends the law violates the Utah and U.S. constitutions because it …

    It’s just a traditional American value. Sectarian religious conflict. Apparently this fundie church was passing out fliers near the Mormon temple.

    We have two One True Xian Cults fighting it out. Again.

  8. says

    “Free speech zone”

    Yeah, I’m also getting the Orwellian vibe. Weakens large public expression by restricting location and time, and I imagine they get quite creative (or even bluntly uncreative) with bureaucratic barriers when someone tries to work within the system. Not only does it put brakes on more spontaneous protests, it gives government officials an excuse to stop them.

  9. TGAP Dad says

    This reminds me of the “free speech zones” – fenced areas away from the protest’s targets – set up by the Bush II administration. Just as wrong wrong now as it was then.

  10. Abby Normal says

    I would not call Grendel “pretty tame.” Perhaps I was too young when I read it, but the stuff about raping the princess to death with a burning torch and squeezing her excrement out like she’s a tube of toothpaste, haunted me for years. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great book and hugely important from a literary perspective. It deserves a place of pride in any library. I would even support it being part of a high school English curriculum. But equivalent in offensiveness to Batman or Spider-man? Not unless those comics have changed a lot since I was a kid.

  11. raven says

    Perhaps I was too young when I read it, but the stuff about raping the princess to death with a burning torch and squeezing her excrement out like she’s a tube of toothpaste, haunted me for years.

    I missed that part or forgot it.

    I have a copy in a box somewhere but it’s been decades since I read it.

    Are you sure that is in that book?

  12. Abby Normal says

    I’m pretty sure. Though it’s been decades for me as well. I can check when I get home. Google found someone with a reaction similar to mine here, suggesting it’s in chapter 7.

  13. raven says

    Well whatever.

    It sounds like a horrible way to go.

    But Grendel is supposed to be a monster. Monsters do monstrous things. Gardner could have left that out. His monster Grendel is quite the philosopher trying to make sense of the world.

  14. pHred says

    I am pretty sure that Grendel thinks/plans/fantasizes (not quite sure what word to use here) doing what Abby Normal describes, but does not actually do it. So it is a very horrific trip through Grendel’s psyche that does not translate into action. I think this is even a common test/discussion question – why Grendel does not rape/kill Wealtheow.

    Either way – ICK. But, unfortunately not out of line with what has been showing up in comics like Batman and Ultimate Spiderman. Something I was horrified to find out because I used to love comic books as a kid.

  15. baal says

    I tried to get my son to read comics…he wasn’t interested.

    “Free Speech Zone”
    Time, place and manner regulations pass the ‘smell test’ on con law since they don’t discriminate (in theory) against the content of speech. It’s a logical reversibility error(all dogs are mammals; not all mammals are dogs) to then limit time, place and manner and then suggest it’s constitutional.

    All too often laws like this one are passed with full knowledge that they will get overturned – eventually. In the mean time, Occupy gets arrested as does entire blocks of otherwise peaceable protesters in down town Saint Paul ((R) convention a few years back)).

  16. raven says

    So it is a very horrific trip through Grendel’s psyche that does not translate into action. I think this is even a common test/discussion question – why Grendel does not rape/kill Wealtheow.

    Well OK. Makes sense.

    He doesn’t kill the queen Wealtheow IIRC, because then he doesn’t have anything to do or give meaning to his life.

    I remember now that my copy of Grendel is in a box somewhere. I’m not at all sure where that box is though. I’ve been known to dump them off at my parent’s house.

  17. thenaturalist says

    The background to this is that the LDS church is opening a new temple in Brigham City and hundreds of visitors are touring the facility each hour. The church defended by the ACLU wanted to distribute literature to the visitors critical of the LDS church (claiming they are not true Christians). The city tried to stop them and hence the lawsuit.

    The LDS church opens new temples to the public before they are dedicated.

  18. Aliasalpha says

    Say a “free speech” zone ends on one side of the road, I’m standing on the other side but can hear the ranting of some nutbag inside the zone, is that in violation because I, outside the zone, can hear it or ok because the source is inside the zone?

  19. blf says

    Say a “free speech” zone ends on one side of the road, I’m standing on the other side but can hear the ranting of some nutbag inside the zone, is that in violation because I, outside the zone, can hear it or ok because the source is inside the zone?

    You are breaking the law because you can hear the other guy.
      — Another reliable free fact from Nineteen Eighty Four Law Schools, Inc™. Visit our partners, Memory Hole Facts, Inc™ for the best in custom-built realities.

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