Sunday, Sept. 23, the Brigham City Temple will be dedicated. It will be a proud moment for area faithful of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But the community as a whole should be proud of the way it has handled the free speech zone controversy surrounding the temple over the last month. Regardless of whether or not the establishment of the zones were proper -- which we don’t believe they were -- the temperate reaction from the public and police prevented a tense situation from becoming ugly.
There were no aggressive protests against Mormons; no macing of demonstrators by police; and no violent outbursts between opposing factions. Instead, police were cordial in dealing with those handing out pamphlets in the designated area, and helped educate people as to where the proposed free speech zone boundaries actually existed.
Some residents thought the signs on the sidewalk indicated the boundary, and called police whenever a protestor ventured past it. The boundary actually included the length of the sidewalk across the street from the temple.
Even after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit last week claiming the zones were unconstitutional, the city and the civil rights organization were able to reach an interim settlement for the duration of the public tours. The city agreed not to enforce the ordinance over the final two days of the open house. And it appears the group handing out material didn’t overstep the spirit of this compromise. The lawsuit against the ordinance adopted by the Brigham City Council that established the zone is still proceeding in federal court. The city’s lawyers are expected to file a response in October.
To us, the zones are clearly unconstitutional. However, with the way police conducted enforcement it is obvious the city’s concern for safety was a sincere factor in the free speech zone designations. We hope the ACLU keeps this in mind when negotiating the matter and a reasonable long term compromise can be reached.