Street preachers lose another round

For the second time, U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell has ruled against street preachers who want more freedom to speak against the LDS Church than Salt Lake City allows.

In a 28-page ruling Tuesday, Campbell upheld the city's speech rules limiting the places where preachers can stand and sermonize during the church's twice-annual worldwide conferences.

Attorneys for the World Wide Street Preachers' Fellowship and the five individual preachers who sued said they were "disappointed" and may appeal.

Salt Lake City Attorney Ed Rutan said the city will continue to use similar speech zones during the next LDS conference, in April.

The LDS Church declined to comment.

The case is unrelated to the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit - before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals - that challenges the church's Main Street Plaza.

Salt Lake City created new speech regulations based on the October 2003 conference, when two preachers who were displaying what Mormons consider sacred garments were assaulted by LDS Church members. The preachers typically fan out along the sidewalks surrounding Temple Square and the LDS Conference Center and speak out against church leaders and teachings.

Fearing such attacks would escalate, police devised speech zones to further separate the various camps.

The regulations are complex, allowing free-speech activities in certain portions of the North Temple sidewalks outside the Conference Center during the October and April conferences.

Preachers said their religion requires - and the Constitution allows - them to be able to stand and preach. They complained the city's rules expanded no-standing zones - which forbid anyone from standing on some parts of the sidewalk when pedestrian traffic peaks with up to 25,000 conference-goers entering the center.

Campbell stressed that the no-standing rule applies to everyone - not just the preachers - and noted that protesters are allowed to walk through those zones with conferencegoers and spread their message by speaking, carrying signs and handing out pamphlets. They just can't stand still.

Plus, she noted, they can stand in other portions of the sidewalk. Campbell said the preachers are always within 2 to 20 feet of conferencegoers. "Speech or demonstrations . . . regardless of content, were never prohibited," she wrote.

The judge used a similar analysis when she rejected the preachers' request for a temporary restraining order before the April 2004 conference.

While the World Wide Street Preachers' Fellowship argued the city developed the speech zones in collusion with the LDS Church, Campbell found no evidence of that. Rutan maintains that the church wanted the city to further restrict speech, removing protesters altogether from the sidewalks near the conference center.

The judge also rejected the preachers' argument that the city's disturbing-the-peace ordinance was too vague.