LA VERKIN, Washington County — The country's first U.N.-free zone was voted out of existence Wednesday night.
After more than two hours of discussion and a failed motion to table the issue, La Verkin council members voted 4-1 to repeal the controversial ordinance. A resolution that reiterates the city's support of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights was introduced and also passed by a 4-1 vote.
Councilman Al Snow, the lone supporter of the ordinance, vowed to take his message directly to La Verkin voters by seeking a referendum. Snow also voted against the resolution, saying it "lacked teeth" and "wouldn't keep anyone from coming into town."
The U.N.-free zone ordinance was passed on July 4 of last year and then amended after Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said it violated several constitutional freedoms. The first version of the ordinance required anyone doing business with the U.N. to post a sign saying such, prohibited flying the U.N. flag within town limits and made it illegal for city employees to participate in any U.N.-sponsored project.
Many residents were outraged by language in the ordinance and the fact that it was passed on the Fourth of July. Two of the city's part-time police officers quit within days of the new law's passage, citing concerns that the ordinance violated personal freedoms or conflicted with other commitments, such as the National Guard.
The final version of the ordinance, passed July 24, eliminated those concerns and imposed, instead, restrictions on the city from making financial contributions to the U.N. or from flying a U.N. flag on the city flagpole. Any U.N. tax or international court decree issued by the U.N. would be invalid in the city, and no U.N. troops could be stationed in town. Violators could be charged with a class-C misdemeanor.
The anti-United Nations ordinance has divided this town's 3,500 citizens. Some residents are embarrassed by all the media attention the ordinance has brought them, while others say the notoriety has been good for the town and has opened their eyes to the "evil" of the United Nations.
The ordinance also figured heavily in November's general election, with voters selecting two new council members opposed to the ordinance. Voters also rejected Mayor Dan Howard, an ardent supporter of the anti-U.N. ordinance, choosing instead Tom Stocks, who said the voters ought to decide the issue.
A third councilman was appointed after Victor Iverson, another strong supporter of the anti-U.N. ordinance, resigned the day after general elections. His replacement, Lance Gifford, agrees with Snow that the United Nations is no friend to America.
"I agree with Al, but I don't agree with the method the ordinance was done in the first place," Gifford said. "If it comes to a vote and the people want it back, you'll have my vote."
Several members of the audience questioned the patriotism and courage of those who voted to repeal the anti-United Nations ordinance. One man said he would "take a bullet" for Snow, and a woman said she wanted to be the first to sign Snow's petition for the referendum.
"You're going to see Al Snow on talk radio, TV and in the newspaper," vowed Snow after the ordinance was repealed. "I will not let this go. They think it'll go away, but it won't. I'm going to stand up and make sure it's done."
Councilman Gary McKell, the only other council member there who originally voted against the ordinance in July, told Snow to "let it go."
Councilman David Wilson, who campaigned on a promise to get the ordinance repealed, also wanted to move on.
"We've already had two public hearings on this and we just had another one in November," Wilson said. "We've had enough discussion about it ever since July. I think that's enough hearings."