Those who stand against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now must take their preaching and posters to the street corners around Temple Square.

Well, maybe.

Even before the ink touched the documents Monday, finalizing the community center solution to the Main Street Plaza brouhaha, four Baptist street preachers assembled on the plaza directly in front of the LDS temple.

Their presence was a direct affront to the community center deal, designed to restrict plaza access to certain activities, including those of the Baptist preachers.

The deal among Salt Lake City, the LDS Church and businessman James Sorenson was officially signed during a Monday morning news conference.

Under the deal's terms, the LDS Church will control the Main Street Plaza while the city will receive land and money around the Sorenson Multi-Cultural Center in Glendale.

Church control includes a litany of bans including restrictions on proselytizing, leafleting, certain types of clothing and other activities. Church security will identify violators and report them to Salt Lake City police, who have the authority to remove them.

Despite Monday's signing, the preachers convened on the plaza, holding colorful banners denouncing the LDS religion.

"In the last days the wicked will prosper, and without Jesus, they can get no peace," Lonnie Pursifull said, expounding on his opinion that the LDS Church has strayed from biblical teachings.

The preachers were waiting for police or church security to ask them to leave. However, LDS Church spokeswoman Kim Farah said the church would not ask Salt Lake City police to come to the plaza Monday.

Pursifull, Utah director of the Virginia-based Street Preachers Fellowship, said he wanted to videotape church security and Salt Lake City police forcing him to leave.

"That's all I need. It's just another violation of my First Amendment rights," he said. "And the fighting has just begun."

Pursifull wouldn't elaborate on the further legal actions he plans to take if asked to leave. He said he would probably return to the plaza Wednesday.

In New York, national American Civil Liberties Union attorney Mark Lopez said a police request for Pursifull or anyone else to leave could be the springboard for another plaza lawsuit.

If they are asked to leave, then they could file a lawsuit, Lopez said. "And they could come to us to do it."

Lopez said the ACLU hasn't made a firm decision on when — or if — it will sue to derail the deal. But a decision could be near.

"I can promise you we are not going to do something this week," he said. "I can tell you, we are very disappointed. . . . If we don't do this, probably someone else is going to step forward."

The initial suit came after the city sold a block of Main Street to the LDS Church in 1999 for $8.1 million. Then the city reserved a public-access easement across the plaza. But it gave the church the ability to prohibit protests and proselytizing against the LDS Church, certain dress and other things the LDS Church finds offensive.

With the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City as a client, the ACLU of Utah sued Salt Lake City over the restrictions, and in October the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the ACLU. The court said the city cannot have public access on the plaza while forbidding certain types of speech there.

The LDS Church, which voluntarily joined the suit, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson said any legal challenge would push the envelope. It would eventually lose because of the amount of time that was given to public comment and the ability of protesters to say anything they want on the city sidewalks outside the plaza, he said.

"There are plenty of opportunities for First Amendment activities just a few feet away," he said.

Anderson said he would prefer that all groups recognize the value of the entire deal, especially to the city's west-side residents. There, the donated money — totaling about $4.75 million — will fund the construction of a new community center and expanded cultural center.

"With the expansion of the Sorenson Center, we will see lives changed and lives saved," he said.

Bishop H. David Burton, presiding bishop of the LDS Church, urged opponents of the deal to end the fight.

"We see no reason to further divide," he said. The deal "is the best efforts of the whole community."

Currently, the church has no plans to restrict access to the plaza, although it has the right to close its property to the public. Bishop Burton said the plaza will remain as it was before the church gained its additional rights, except for the shouting protesters.

"Physically speaking, there will be no changes to the plaza," he said. "We hope people will continue to come and enjoy it."

Sorenson, the billionaire who donated 2.54 acres of land east of the Sorenson Center and $500,000, said the biggest beneficiaries of the deal will be the children who live in the Glendale area.

"These little kids are so grateful to have a meeting place, a place to gather," he said. "My greatest thrill is to help the kids, to be an instrument of peace, and to expand the love of fellow man."

Rosanita Cespedes, executive director of the Sorenson Center, said that while there are no specific plans for the expansion of the center, the needs are definitely there. Along with increasing program offerings, she would like the center to provide some senior services as well as a larger gathering space for various ethnic communities.

Most importantly, though, will be the opportunity to better serve the area's youths, many of whom attend neighboring Riley Elementary and have nowhere to go after school.

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"I couldn't be happier because the demand on services continues to increase," she said. "There's so many children, it's great to get the land and money to serve them."

Back on the plaza, no one was thinking about children. A few angry LDS faithful stood nose to nose with Pursifull and other preachers, shouting. One man poked Pursifull's chest while another cursed and made a motion like he was going to throw a punch.

"I think (the preachers) infringe on the rights of the people who come down here and want a peaceful, beautiful place," Salt Lake resident Julie Johansen said. "This is such a beautiful place, and the church has spent so much money making it beautiful."


E-MAIL: jloftin@desnews.com; bsnyder@desnews.com

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