For all you smokers, nudists, heavy-metal freaks and skateboarders out there, we’ve got some bad news. You can’t do that stuff on the “Little Bit O’ Paris” park between the LDS Temple and the Joseph Smith Memorial Office Building (otherwise known as Hotel Utah).
As far as protesting and other First Amendment free-speech stuff goes, you can’t do that on the plaza either. Well, go ahead and try it. But we warned you.
Of course, the ACLU filed suit in federal court against Salt Lake City for selling the block of Main Street to the LDS church with restrictions on freedom of expression intact. But last week, U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart ruled against the ACLU and effectively for the LDS church. In his ruling, Stewart said the church paid fair market value ($8.1 million) for the land, and could do with it what they damn well pleased. (OK, maybe he didn’t use the d-word.) By the by, how did they come up with fair market value for Main Street? Seems like it would be worth more. Oh well.
No big surprise. You don’t have to be a lawyer to know that no matter what the legal arguments were, there was no way Stewart, a good Mormon, could rule against his church. It just wasn’t going to happen—particularly on something like the new LDS plaza. To do so would have been to effectively ostracize himself from the church, from his community, and he could just forget about the Celestial Kingdom altogether.
By comparison, the controversy over whether liquor can be advertised in newspapers and magazines printed in Utah is small potatoes. Nonetheless, U.S. District Judge David Sam was not going to rule that alcohol could be advertised in local publications, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling which should have paved the way. He’s been sitting on the case for three and a half years. There was no way Sam, a Mormon, was going to go down in history as the judge who allowed booze advertising. How could he possibly show up at priesthood meeting after that?
Utah is not the only strange place, and it’s not the only state that loves guns, either. North Dakota has issued a concealed weapon to a blind man, according to the Associated Press. Carey McWilliams is a graduate student at North Dakota State University and was awarded the permit even though officials know he is blind. “I don’t see a problem with it,” said Pat Healey, a sheriff’s deputy who administers permits. “[Blind] people can be as reliable with a weapon as anybody.”
Speaking of scary, dig this: A newly elected New Hampshire state lawmaker has pissed off a lot of people by saying he favors killing police officers “when they cross the line.” Tom Alciere, 41, who ran from Nashua to win a seat in the statehouse, told a local newspaper, “Nobody will ever be safe until the last cop is dead.” Yikes.