Mormon Inquiry

Mormon Inquiry

More than just a kiss

posted by Dave Banack

From the Salt Lake Tribune: “Gay couple cuffed, cited after kiss near LDS temple.”

A gay couple says they were detained by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints security guards after one man kissed another on the cheek Thursday on Main Street Plaza.

“They targeted us,” said Matt Aune, 28. “We weren’t doing anything inappropriate or illegal, or anything most people would consider inappropriate for any other couple.”

Aune and his partner, Derek Jones, 25, were cited by Salt Lake City police for trespassing on the plaza, located at 50 East North Temple, according to Sgt. Robin Snyder.

In a written statement, church spokeswoman Kim Farah denied the two were singled out for being gay.

“Two individuals came on church property and were politely asked to stop engaging in inappropriate behavior — just as any other couple would have been,” she said. She declined to comment on what is considered inappropriate behavior, and on the rules governing the plaza.

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Geoff J

posted July 11, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Smells like a publicity stunt to me.

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posted July 11, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Eating tacos in El Paso. Walking across a plaza in Salt Lake. A kiss is just a kiss.
Arresting people or asking them to leave “protects” and “defends” marriage?
Not much of a “marriage” to begin with, if this is the concern of a “church.”

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Left Field

posted July 11, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Leslie, I don’t see any of the words you quote in the article. What are you quoting from?

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Your Name

posted July 11, 2009 at 3:23 pm


posted July 11, 2009 at 3:42 pm

I concur with Geoff J: a publicity stunt all the way. Still, I predict the news story will play badly for the Church. (Look at that headline!) Ugh.

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Your Name

posted July 11, 2009 at 3:53 pm

A publicity stunt at 11pm on a Thursday night in Downtown Salt Lake? Because that’s when all the publicity is out and about?
A man kissing a woman in public = public display of affection.
A man kissing a man in public = a publicity stunt? Only if you are Sacha Baron Cohen filming your next movie. There are more polite ways to encourage people to leave your easement. If the security guards had employed them, there would be no publicity. If you don’t want egg on your face, don’t throw eggs.

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Nate W.

posted July 11, 2009 at 5:03 pm

Geoff J.:
1. Don’t be so quick to impugn people’s motives, especially when you have no evidence for doing so.
2. Regardless of motive, the facts that we have are:
a) Gay couple walks north from Gallivan Center to Capitol Hill, through the Main St. Plaza.
b) One man kisses other man on cheek.
c) They asked to leave.
d) They become angry.
e) They are handcuffed by Church security and cited and released by SLCPD.
If there are other facts, we don’t know about them. The Church has declined to give any more facts when given the opportunity, so let’s assume that these facts are true.
Was church security within its rights? Most likely (I’m not exactly sure what the Utah criminal trespass statute means by “substantially interfering with the owner’s use of the property,” but apparently if they weren’t, it would be a defense in this case), but it is yet another instance of a PR fumble. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself who is more at fault here–the couple, who may or may not have been baiting Church security, or Church security, who either fell into or caused another PR blunder.

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Latter-day Guy

posted July 12, 2009 at 2:29 am

“…just as any other couple would have been…”
Either Kim Farah is lying (that is, she knows that couples frequently kiss in the plaza––many in the context of wedding photos), or she is an idiot. Perhaps the reality is a mixture of the two.
In any case, the plaza is owned by the Church, so if the couple was indeed trespassing (and I’m not really convinced that they were, given the information in the article, but I’m no lawyer) then the Church’s action was within their rights. The plaza, however, has a public easement; if this kiss was truly in violation of the terms of that easement, Church security had better be vigorously pursuing and removing anyone who kisses there, straight or gay.

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Latter-day Guy

posted July 12, 2009 at 2:36 am

Correction. I was mistaken, there is in fact no public easement on the plaza, though the Church has given a guarantee of public access.

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Seth R.

posted July 12, 2009 at 3:11 am

Yeah, the LDS Church traded the city of Salt Lake some facilities for a new community center in exchange for the easement.
They are legally entitled to boot anyone they want from that property.
I have no opinion on this story until I have more facts and BOTH sides of it. And I don’t really trust most of the press to handle this objectively since homosexuality is kind of a hip issue for them.
That said, the Salt Lake Tribune has usually done a fairly good job of coverage. Hopefully they at least will handle the issue in a balanced fashion.
I wouldn’t put it past the gay couple in question to be pulling a deliberate provocation.
I also wouldn’t put it past some blowhard on Temple Square security overreacting to something trivial.
We’ll see.

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Suspicious Minds

posted July 12, 2009 at 9:57 am


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Your Name

posted July 12, 2009 at 4:22 pm

What a stupid situation – and on so many levels.
It would be one thing if people came onto private property – regardless of whose property it is – with the intent of causing trouble. But to have people arrested for essentially kissing in public is stupid beyond measure.
I know, I know. It wasn’t the kissing. It was their refusal to leave. But whether it was an actual refusal or simply an argument that ensued after they were scolded and told their behavior was inappropriate is subject to dispute. It’s not even a dispute between the LDS Church and the gay community. It’s a dispute between some security guard and a couple of guys walking through an open area.
And what were these two guys doing? They were trying to get from Point A to Point B. And what were they doing on “church property?” They were walking. Why? Because the Church has bought up what used to be city property. Are other people “trespassing” when they enter the Plaza, let alone cut through it? No. Why not? Because it’s open to the public.
It just wasn’t open to a gay couple.
Now, if you’re going to boot gays from “church property” because you’ve built a real-estate empire all over downtown Salt Lake City, don’t you think it would make a little sense to train your security so that some tempest in a teapot doesn’t end up on the AP all over the world?
The world is awash in security guards. Security guards routinely shoo people off of private property. But recognizing the potential for bad publicity, let alone a lawsuit, security guards are routinely trained in how to do this without creating a media event.
Apparently, this gay couple is smarter than the Plaza guards and their supervisors and their supervisors’ supervisors. How high up the chain stupidity surges is anybody’s guess, but this situation is clearly unacceptable.
Kissing gay trespassers are not out taking over the world. If Chicken Little is LDS, he needs some training.

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Bill Kilpatrick

posted July 12, 2009 at 4:28 pm

There’s no public easement because the Church – like any savvy property owner – takes measures to close the property off from time to time. This prevents any de facto easement from being created by public use.
It’s private property but it’s also open to the public, subject to the Church’s right to expel anyone it likes.
Legally, the Church is in the right. In terms of its public image, these security guards – and the cops who showed up to defend the faith – are idiots. They’ve done the LDS Church far more damage than would have been done if two total flamers had been making out as they walked from one end of the property to the other.
I guess some guys really do need a shepherd.

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Guy Noir, Private Eye

posted July 12, 2009 at 9:16 pm

I believe that this shows how Legalistic the LDS church has devolved to be (Sad, but nonetheless descriptive). They CLEARLY want to have things BOTH WAYS: public/religious (which coincidently preserves their tax-exempt status) and Private so they can pick & choose who comes & goes and what they’re allowed to do…
The LDS ‘religion’ (loose use of term) is a “Simon Says” organization; as long as one ‘does (and Thinks) as we Say’, they’ll be O.K. However, resentment tends to build up when a ‘church’ is telling you minute details such as a) size & number of earrings b)how to have sex with yr spouse….c) NO Tattoos, WHITE SHIRTS for men; NO pants (in church) for women, etc.
the Mormons have Mastered the application of ‘strain at a gnat and swallow a camel’.

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Mark D.

posted July 12, 2009 at 11:46 pm

If you don’t want religions to have automatic tax exempt status, the very first thing to do would be to start a petition to repeal the First Amendment. Either that or propose to take away the tax exempt status of everyone.

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Mark D.

posted July 12, 2009 at 11:58 pm

i.e. under current law a church does not have to apply for 501(c)3 status – it has such status automatically. Of course a church or religious organization can lose such status if it doesn’t act like a “church” – but due to the First Amendment free exercise clause, churches are given unusual latitude, more so than any other type of organization.
This is reflected in statutory exemptions to several laws. Churches, for example, are allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion in employment decisions. Most employers are prohibited from doing so, due to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, an act which has an explicit exemption for religious organizations – to pass constituional muster in this case.

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Nate W.

posted July 13, 2009 at 2:06 am

Mark D:
Do you have any authority that would suggest that the religious employment exception or tax exemption would be required by the First Amendment rather than it being the result of a deferential legislative branch?

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The Only True and Living Nathan

posted July 13, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Guy Noir,
Maybe this is an unreasonable request, it being the internet and all, but could you maybe leaven your polemic with some facts? I don’t even ask that they be pertinent to the discussion at hand.

The LDS ‘religion’ (loose use of term)

And how, exactly, is the LDS church less a religion than any other one in the entire world? (Hint: Just because you disagree with it doesn’t make it less of a religion. You’re welcome.)

is a “Simon Says” organization; as long as one ‘does (and Thinks) as we Say’, they’ll be O.K.

Whereas other religions (which have more claim to the label) are… wait.

a) size & number of earrings

Why yes, they have a dress code for attendees at a private college. Not an injunction against members as a whole. But conflation helps make your case, go for it.

b)how to have sex with yr spouse….

Gee, I’ve been married to my spouse for sixteen years, and I’ve never once gotten instructions from the church on how to “do it.” I hope I’m not doing it wrong.

c) NO Tattoos, WHITE SHIRTS for men; NO pants (in church) for women, etc.

Tattoos are discouraged. True. Not forbidden; there’s a difference between trying to influence behavior and coming down with hellfire-and-damnation edicts, you know.
As for white shirts, all I know is that local leaders can (and have) instruct that those priesthood holders administering the sacrament for the congregation dress to a certain standard. I suppose by your definitions, the Roman Catholic church (priestly vestments) and orthodox Judaism (dress strictures extrapolated from the Mosaic law) are only “religions” in the loosest sense of the word, right?
And I’ve yet to see ANY woman kicked out out of a meeting for wearing pants. I’ve only been going consistently for 35+ years, though; I obviously don’t know as much about my religion as you do.

the Mormons have Mastered the application of ‘strain at a gnat and swallow a camel’.

And you, sir, have not mastered the art of using out-of-context falsehoods for malign purposes. Give it time, though, and I’m sure you’ll be a first-class liar in no time!

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Your Name

posted July 14, 2009 at 1:57 pm

I think the absurdity of this situation is best summed up in the description of “Church property” where this infamous deed went down: “Main Street Plaza.” Far more damage will be done to the LDS Church by the infamy of arresting a gay couple – for kissing in public – than done by this same couple when they “trespassed” upon “Church property.”
The stupidity of this badly mismanaged situation is that it reminds the public that, in Salt Lake City, “Main Street Plaza” is owned by the Mormon Church. After a century of trying to convince a skeptical world that Mormons and non-Mormons get an equal and fair shake in Utah, an episode like this just underscores the perception that the Mormon Church owns the state.
What more obvious self-inflicted wound can you get than to resort to the argument that “Main Street Plaza” is “Church property?”

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Chino Blanco

posted July 14, 2009 at 6:00 pm

O/T … let’s watch and see what happens … I added the link as suggested by the interface, but you won’t be able to click on it.
I’ll add it again here, and lo and behold …,-Knock,-Anybody-NOM-Anybody-Mormon

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Mike in SLC

posted July 15, 2009 at 1:11 pm

“The stupidity of this badly mismanaged situation is that it reminds the public that, in Salt Lake City, “Main Street Plaza” is owned by the Mormon Church.”
That hits the nail right on the head. It doesn’t help that the majority of Salt Lakers did NOT approve of the sale of Main Street to the LDS church, even more were opposed to the city giving up its easement on the property. That one block plaza has been on of the biggest influences in the anti-mormon movement in Salt Lake City (that and the church’s bigoted views on gays and history of racism).
This is yet another example of a saying that my temple worthy roommate came up with “the church has a good habit of shooting for the stars and a bad habit of shooting themselves in the foot while reloading”.

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Your Name

posted July 29, 2009 at 2:44 pm

“under current law a church does not have to apply for 501(c)3 status – it has such status automatically.”
Yup, even “C Street” is filed with the IRS as a “Church”.
“Of course a church or religious organization can lose such status if it doesn’t act like a “church”
I don’t think subsidizing overseas prosyletizing trips is “acting like a Church”, nor counselling (aka protecting) the hypocritical adulterers, nor subsidizing their rents.

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posted July 30, 2009 at 8:29 am

It all worked out. Charges were dropped in this case. Not by the LDSers, but by the city prosecutor (source: Interesting information from that article:
Gill said a misunderstanding occurred between Jones and Aune and the security guard.
He said Jones and Aune weren’t intending to commit criminal trespassing because they perceived the walkway was open to the public.
In addition, Gill said, “there is a reasonable basis to believe the alleged trespassers did not think the LDS staff who confronted them could legally eject them from the property. Under this scenario, the alleged violators wanted law enforcement to be called because they believed they had a right to be there.
“There were no signs clearly indicating the ‘at will’ capacity to eject — for any reason — persons who entered this private property. Under this statute when the property is ‘open to the public’ Utah law provides that even if there is a violation of the statute, there is still the affirmative defense for the defendant that such conduct did not ’substantially interfere’ with the owner’s use of the property.”

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posted July 30, 2009 at 8:31 am

erm… Everything below my initial paragraph was supposed to be in italics, BTW.

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posted August 27, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Is there a sign proclaiming the plaza as “private property, no trespassing”?
Much ado about nothing…now if the guys were having “sex”, naked on the plaza…then reason to interfere…
Would this have happened if the couple had been a male/female? Probably not.

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