October 5, 2005

"I hope they enjoy their lily white, golly gee, clean, fun plaza."

Says Lee Siegel, who brought a lawsuit challenging a deal in which the city gave the LDS church control over a public square in Salt Lake City. Yesterday, the 10th Circuit approved the deal, saying it does "nothing to advance religion, but merely enables the LDS church to advance itself."


Jim Clay said...

We will, thanks.

Pastor_Jeff said...

Lots of interesting issues here. The plaza was traditionally public space, but the city sold it to the LDS church while retaining an easement allowing for public access. However, the deal allowed the LDS church to maintain control over "anti-church" speech it doesn't like in the plaza.

It seems like the city and church want it both ways. If the property truly belongs to the LDS church, then it's no longer public. But you can't say it's public while giving a church the ability to control speech it doesn't like.

Sean said...

I'm curious as to why liberals have this tendency to turn everything into a racial attack, even to the extent that white liberals like this Siegel guy attack their opponents for being "white." I don't think most people find it very persuasive, especially I'd wager that the ACLU donors' list is a lot whiter than the Mormon church these days.

EddieP said...

I wish there were more nice golly gee, clean, fun plazas in cities. No anti this, anti that gangstas, just a peaceful place to walk and talk with ones family or friends.

Jeff said...

"Lee Siegel, one of its plaintiffs, was disappointed: "I hope they enjoy their lily white, golly gee, clean, fun plaza.""

This isn't about a white liberal attacking opponents for being white. "Lily white" is code for northern European Christian. I hear it often enough here in NY to recognise it as an expression of disbelief in and disdain for the reality of white, middle-class, midwestern people and their suspiciously wholesome lifestyle.

It's also a coded expression of Jewish bigotry towards non-ethnic and non-liberal Christians.

Whatever the technical merits of this case or the ACLU jihad against the Boy Scouts are, the passion that fuels them is one of bigotry and bullying.

I have been involved in too many discussions with liberals in NY who assume that I'm a fellow-traveler and make known their essential unease bordering on disgust with many of the "Leave it to Beaver" aspects of non-urban life that they find somehow threatening.

I think what is essentially threatening to them is that some white people don't share their elite self-hatred. This is a real thorn in the side of many "liberals" and I believe a major factor in Bush Derangement Syndrome, etc.

The hypocrisy of it all comes in with the feeling that having the "correct" views plus a smattering of "ethnic" background absolves them of the original sin of being white. Someone who is white (wealthy or not) Sourthern, Christian, or conservative is simply living in sin and is therefore beyond the pale of civilised discourse. They must be enlightened when possible, subjugated by law when not, and divided and colonised in either case. And if they have any objection, brand them as racists or theo-cons and drive them before the temple, and have stones cast upon their heads, yea and I say unto thee it is good.

James M said...

Pastor Jeff,

The city sold the easement worth $500,000 to the church for $5 million. It's not public space anymore and anybody who enters the plaza is a guest of the church. The issue in the most recent 10th circuit opinion went to the propriety of the sale. The issue you're referring to, city control of an easement over private property had previously been ruled on by the 10th circuit. In the previous ruling, they encouraged the sale of the easement to the church.

During the interim period between the ruling and the sale, the church had no control over speech on the easement. I was living in Utah at that time and observed some reprehensible behavior by those who disagreed with the church. In one particular instance, a protester inserted himself into the wedding pictures of a couple who were taking pictures after their marriage in the Salt Lake temple. Despite pleading from the wedding party, he did everything he could to ruin their day. I for one am glad that that type of behavior can now be minimized.

TWM said...

The issue here should be a church, any church, controlling property that is considered public. And it doesn't matter if they are "lilly white" or not.

The lilly white comment is obviously racist, but you won't find anyone up in arms about it. And don't people of all colors want a "clean, fun plaza" to hang out in?

PatCA said...

Gosh, I bet the citizens will really miss all the petty criminals, substance abusers, trash, dirty needles, and vulgar poetry readings that bring such flavor to city plazas.

Pastor_Jeff said...


Thanks for the clarification on the timing and elements of the sale. It's a shame that people would rudely interrupt someone's wedding.

But even before the sale of the easement, the church did
restrict speech
in the plaza and had people arrested when the church didn't like their speech.

I like clean, safe plazas as much as anyone, but I don't like the idea of a church having the power to regulate speech on a public easement. I don't have a problem with the city selling land to a church, but then it can no longer be public property.


What it seems the church mainly objected to was evangelicals, no-nukes and others passing out literature the church didn't like.

Jim Clay said...

Pastor Jeff,
No offense, but it wasn't simply a matter of "not liking their speech", or "handing out pamphlets". First off, they specifically come during the large semi-annual meetings (i.e. they are specifically targeting Mormons) and then yell loudly- often obscenely and with bullhorns- and intentionally use sacred symbols of the LDS faith in demeaning and obscene ways (eg. rubbing their bums with them). They tell children that they are going to hell. They were asked to leave. They would not.

Given all that, I do not have a problem at all with citing them for trespassing.

Pastor_Jeff said...


I agree that's offensive, and I'm sorry if that was your experience. I can certainly understand how ridicule of deeply held religious convictions would be upsetting. I have a hard time, however, believing that's descriptive of everyone at the plaza. And why would they have to leave public space (prior to the easement sale)?

I quite intensely dislike the offensive and immature words, signs, and actions of many of the ANSWER protesters in D.C. but they still had a right to protest on public property. What does specifically targeting Mormons have to do with it? The question isn't about Mormonism but whether the space is public or private. The President has been publicly targeted and told he is going to hell, but the protesters have a right to express their views.

I'm very hesitant to restrict people's speech rights in public spaces for a couple of reasons: 1) It goes against the 1st Amendment, and 2) There are people who don't like some of the things I believe, but I want to have the right to express my views.

Jim Clay said...

Pastor Jeff,
I pretty much agree with everything you have said. The key part, in my mind, is "The question isn't about Mormonism but whether the space is public or private."

Exactly. And the answer is that it is private.

Sigivald said...

Jeff (Not-the-pastor):

It's not "Jewish" code; it's leftish-secular code. I've seen plenty of non-Jews use exceedingly similar terminology. (I imagine that being in New York, you simply run in to more Jews who happen to fit that mold.)

Plenty of non-Jews are also more or less bigoted towards "wholesome, traditional WASP-y stuff". (Which is even more hilarious with the Mormons, given their exertions to convert and bring to Salt Lake all those Tongans and other not-white people!)

I mean, heck, I'm an atheist, and I don't see any problem here, or with Mormons in general. But maybe that's because I don't have the modern cynical distrust of anything that appears wholesome... 'cause I know that often enough it really is.

HaloJonesFan said...

I can certainly understand how ridicule of deeply held religious convictions would be upsetting.

:rolleyes: There's a difference between free speech and an attempt to injure. If you're creating a public nuisance, which these people were doing, you can't hide behind the First Amendment.

If I stand in the middle of a street and drop my pants, I get arrested. Claiming that I'm merely exercising my First Amendment rights in a non-verbal way isn't going to cut much ice.

And what, these people aren't happy? The church spent eight million dollars to make them go away. What kind of mind doesn't consider that a victory?

Bruce Hayden said...

I find myself on both sides of this issue. I too have lived in Utah and been to the plaza. And, I too have seen the protesters.

Normally, I would take the public access side of this. But for Mormons, this is really the center of their religion. It is important to be married in a temple, and, there is almost nothing that a young couple would prefer than to be married in that temple - literally the spiritual center of their religion.

So, you have a young couple who have held off on sex until this day. The guy has been on his mission and is now back. No alcohol. Tithing. The whole thing. They walk out of the service, and run into these nasty, nasty, protesters whose goal seems to be to destroy this most important day in the lives of this young couple.

Bruce Hayden said...

Another way of thinking about this from the Mormon point of view, is if a band of protesters got bull horns and used them to shout down the Pope in St. Peter's Square. Maybe when he is giving a blessing, and they are protesting one of the alleged sins of the RC church - such as, for example, the proposed ban on new gay priests.

Of course, as we all know, St. Peter's Square is in the Vatican, technically a separate country, and subject essentially to the whims of the Papacy.

The difference here is an accident of history. For the first fifty or so years of history, the LDS Church and the local government were not really that distinct, which is why they sit as close together as they do. But then, the Mormons found themselves physically surrounded by Gentiles and technically a part of the U.S., though without the rights we had in CO just to the east (due to statehood). So, they ultimately became a state, and had to start separating church and state. I would suggest though that it really didn't become a problem until the last 1/4 of the 20th Century when the Gentile population of SLC started to become significant, while the church continued to grow at such a high rate around the world.

Final note. Interestingly to me, outside of the ski areas, probably the least Mormon part of Utah is that religion's spiritual center, Salt Lake City. Plenty of non-Mormons there.

When I lived there, I worked in a firm where less than half of the partners were LDS. It used to be quite interesting when there was a big promotion (like when 2 guys made partner). Two sets of trays would go around. One with Champagne, and one with fruit juice. Ditto for office parties. That was the one time you really knew who was who.

Osvaldo said...

Yeah, I don't see the problem myself. The Mormons built a plaza and the government kept an easement over it, and then the government sold the easement to the Mormons for 10 times its actual value. And now the Mormons own the thing in fee simple and they keep protestors out.

Sounds fair to me.