Church Sells Main Street To Saudis
courtesy of deserettribune.com
by al fonzarelli
Facing mounting pressure from local activists as well as litigation from the American Civil Liberties Union, the LDS Church announced today it has sold the disputed Main Street Plaza to Saudi Arabia.
The several-block stretch of property on Main Street recently purchased by the church from the City of Salt Lake for $3 million was also the subject of growing controversy.
According to sources close to the transaction, the LDS Church and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have entered into an agreement late Saturday evening as the Muslim Holy period of Ramadhan was winding down. The selling price was disclosed at $103 million thereby netting the church a $100 million windfall profit for its one-year investment in the property.
The development of the Main Street Plaza has been under public scrutiny since the church first undertook measures to obtain the property. During a City Council meeting in June, 1998, church officials appeased council members by promising to develop the Main Street property into a park where the public could experience “a little bit of Paris.”
However the plan to redevelop the property came under fire when church officials acquired the property and afterwards announced that it would establish and enforce certain behavioral ‘guidelines for public safety’ for access to the park such as prohibitions on radios, tattoos, body-piercings, tobacco use and public speaking.
The ACLU immediately filed suit against the City claiming the sale was unconstitutional and that in effect the transaction was depriving citizens of public property protected by the Articles of the United States Constitution that permit free speech, access and the right to assemble.
ACLU attorney Gloria Weinstein said “The church’s vision of a little bit of Paris seems hauntingly similar to the Nazi’s vision of Paris during their occupation of France in World War II. What we have here is the creation of an ecclesiastical ghetto where jack-boot, white-shirted missionaries would patrol the grounds removing anyone that did not comply with the church’s ‘guidelines for public safety.’”
However, today’s decision to sell Main Street to Saudi Arabia left even the harshest critics of the church dumbfounded.
In a hastily arranged news conference church spokesman Dale Bills said “The decision by church authorities to sell the Main Street Plaza is not necessarily a capitulation to legal and political pressures.”
When asked why the church had decided to sell the property, Bills replied, “The church has a duty to be a good steward in its role as both citizen and public servant. We felt it was in the public’s interest to expand their view and experience of foreign cultures such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has strikingly similar tenets as our own faith. Muslims are a lot like the saints. We have kingdoms and they have kingdoms. We wear traditional garments and they do too. We do not consume alcohol and neither do they. And their views on women and polygamy are certainly not unfamiliar to us.”
Spokesman for King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia released a press statement this afternoon “King Fahd wishes to convey his gratitude to the American people and the Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints. We welcome this historic moment as an opportunity to bridge the gap between our cultures. We want to assure the citizens of Salt Lake City we will carry forward the original plans by the LDS church for redevelopment of the plaza. The guidelines for public safety as put forth by the LDS church will remain the same. However, we feel it is fair to advise the public that the penalties for failure to comply with the guidelines will be somewhat different than what they are accustomed to. The penalties for guideline violations will be more in accordance with Islamic law. Violators will be subject to stoning, amputations of extremeties, and beheading.”
LDS Church spokesman Bills said “I’d like to see the ACLU organize their first demonstration on the grounds of Main Street Plaza now. Those Muslims are all business. Let ‘em take those Arabs to court. They’re going to get a little bit of Riyadh. The streets are going to be littered with limbs, torsos and heads. Heck, I heard they are going to build a cave to detain menstruating women. Those liberals at the ACLU are going to long for the halcyon days when we ran the plaza.”
Bills added, “With the proceeds from this sale the church plans to acquire Bally’s Casino in Las Vegas. We are going to let the citizens of Las Vegas experience a little bit of Salt Lake City.”