By Andrew Damstedt
In a ruling Monday, May 3, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball dismissed the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit concerning Main Street Plaza stating the selling of the easement does not advance or endorse a religion.
Kimball said the ACLU failed to show Salt Lake City was trying to promote a religion.
Kimball wrote in his ruling that when the city followed one of two options suggested by the 10th Circuit Court it “can hardly be said that the reason for its decision was to promote or endorse the LDS church.”
The judge, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, referred to the matter as “bitter” and “contentious.”
“We are disappointed but we are not surprised, it was not unexpected,” said Dani Eyer, executive director of the ACLU”s Utah chapter. “We will more than likely appeal.”
The ACLU has 30 days to decide whether or not they will appeal the decision made by Kimball.
“The city should not be congratulated for their actions,” Eyer said.
Alan Sullivan, attorney for the LDS church said in an official statement, “The Church is gratified that the district court has ruled in its favor. By simply following one of the suggestions of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in its earlier decision, the Mayor and the City Council complied with the Constitution in all respects.”
The ACLU has a long history of contesting the Main Street Plaza issue in Salt Lake City dating back to December 1998.
“People hear more about the church and state issue in Utah, because it is emotional for people.” Eyer said referring to the fact that most Utahns are LDS.
On their Web site, the ACLU Utah Chapter said, “Because separation of church and state issues receive a lot of press attention here in Utah, we remind you that the principles we defend ultimately ensure freedom (of religion) for everyone.”
Deeda Ceed the public relations spokesperson for Mayor Rocky Anderson said the mayor is grateful the judge made the decision and hopes the city can put the matter behind them.
“He sees it as a resolution of an issue that has been very contentious in our community,” Ceed said.