Even though supporters are reluctant to admit they had it wrong in the first place, it’s a victory for free speech that Brigham City’s council has repealed an offensive ordinance that limited protest areas to certain blocks around the new LDS Church temple there.
Kudos also to the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a complaint against the protest-restricting law. The ACLU is controversial, and frequently the target of ire from conservatives and others, but the organization is on the mark when it comes to respecting the right of free speech.
The ACLU’s complaint alleged that the city unconstitutionally mandated a permit for "almost any conceivable form of public expression." That was correct. The unconstitutional ordinance also came with civil and criminal penalties.
The ACLU’s complaint was on behalf of Brigham City’s Main Street Church, located adjacent to the temple at 48 N. Main. After huddling with Main Street Church, the Brigham City council loosened virtually all restrictions.
It’s unfair to allege that the original restrictions were implemented because the Brigham City council is comprised mostly of Mormons. Rather, we ascribe the original protest restrictions to ignorance on how to craft such a law with a goal of protecting residents.
The new LDS temple is beautiful and enhances the ambiance of the Box Elder County community. Roughly 400,000 people toured the temple prior to its dedication for use by members of the LDS Church. However, the LDS Church will always have protesters, perhaps more now because of the candidacy of Mitt Romney for the presidency. Brigham City officials were incorrect in assuming that their city’s law restricting protest passed constitutional muster.
These protesters, no matter how offensive they may be to many in the community, are Americans, or in the U.S., and have the right to free speech. We’re very happy that a mistake restricting that right has been corrected.