(This post has been recently updated toward the end with additional links) The Church has released this news update on the “kissing” incident on the Plaza, now an extension of Temple Square and Church Headquarters: (Hat Tip Geoff B.):
SALT LAKE CITY 17 July 2009 There has been a good deal of publicity surrounding an incident where two men were cited for trespassing because of belligerent and profane behavior on the Church Plaza, which is an extension of the Salt Lake City Temple grounds and Church headquarters. While this property is owned by the Church, we want it to be a place of beauty and serenity in downtown Salt Lake City for everyone.
As we said earlier on this matter, these men were asked to stop engaging in behavior deemed inappropriate for any couple on the Plaza. There was much more involved than a simple kiss on the cheek. They engaged in passionate kissing, groping, profane and lewd language, and had obviously been using alcohol. They were politely told that the Plaza was not the place for such behavior and asked to stop. When they became belligerent, the two individuals were asked to leave Church property. Church security detained them and Salt Lake City police were called.
There is nothing satisfying in learning that there have been problems for anyone on Church property. We hope the Plaza will continue to be an asset to the community and enjoyed by the many that cross it each day.
I am pleased to see the Church clarify what actually happened on Temple Square, and to reiteriate how important that location is not only to faithful LDS the world over but also as an intregal part of downtown Salt Lake City. It is extremely unfortuante that those with rank political and social agendas seek to further besmirch the Church and its image by telling lies not only about the incident but the motivations for the clearly justified expulsion of these two obnoxious and belligerent men.
I liked Geoff’s comment below and the original over at M* and wanted to highlight it in this main part of the post. I agree wholeheartedly.
There will be some who will cast aspersions on Church regarding this issue. My perspective is the exact opposite — it is Church critics, especially on the gay marriage issue, who have acted in an uncharitable and dishonest way. The fact that Church critics have not come under greater scrutiny or criticism is just a sign of our times — when good is called bad and bad is called good.
I simply would like to point out that I worked with Church public affairs for several years. I know most of the people who work in Church public affairs in SLC, and I know how they operate. I would trust my life with them — without a doubt. In this particular case, given my experience, there is no doubt in my mind that what happened is that Church public affairs and/or Church counsel interviewed the security guards extensively to double and triple-check their story. They decided to release this statement several days after the incident so they would have time to check it. After interviewing the security guards, the Brethren were consulted, and, very likely, several meetings were held to discuss the matter.
If such a statement was released, it is supported by the Brethren completely and has been cleared by probably dozens of people. That’s definitely good enough for me.
Amen, preach it brother.
Update 07/18/09 Voice of Deseret has a good post up with further details and eyewitness accounts.
Further Update 07/18/09 From today’s Deseret News:
In the wake of one “kiss-in” protest carried out last Sunday and ahead of another one planned for this Sunday, the LDS Church issued a statement Friday defending its Main Street Plaza property rights and its actions involving a pair of men cited there last week for their public displays of affection.
Echoing previous comments made by a church spokeswoman following the July 9 incident, Friday’s statement said the pair were asked “to stop engaging in behavior deemed inappropriate for any couple of the plaza,” which was “more involved than a simple kiss on the cheek.”
“They engaged in passionate kissing, groping, profane and lewd language and had obviously been using alcohol,” the statement continued. “They were politely told that the plaza was not the place for such behavior and asked to stop. When they became belligerent, the two individuals were asked to leave church property.”
The two — Derek Jones and Matthew Aune — were detained by church security, cited by Salt Lake police for trespassing, an infraction of city ordinances, and later released.
It is good to get the facts out to the media in light of these ridiculous “kiss in’s” planned. These guys were not cited for a kiss in–they were cited for demonstrably obnoxious behavior–not the peck on the cheek lie perpetuated by many.
Jones did not return repeated calls from the Deseret News seeking his response to the church’s statement.
Why not? Mr. Jones, why so shy now? I’m sure the public would love to hear your version of the facts. Looks like what started as a stunt to make the Church look bad has now taken an enexpected turn for these two guys as more and more evidence emerges contradicting their intial claims.
Meanwhile, Salt Lake City prosecutor Sim Gill said his office plans to examine the case thoroughly to ensure that the charges are valid and his office has all the evidence it needs to proceed with a prosecution.
“It appears there are some missing pieces that still need to be gathered,” Gill said. “We want to make sure there was sufficient evidence in the police report and make sure the charges are appropriate.”
Gill said the case against the pair is set for a routine arraignment hearing July 23 before Salt Lake City Municipal Court Judge John Baxter. Gill said infractions of city ordinances do not carry jail time as potential sentences, but fines up to $500 can be imposed.
This is interesting, and is the first media report to note the upcoming legal proceedings against these individuals. Some have suggested the videos be produced. Perhaps, the Church is waiting for the prosecution to release the videos. Or perhaps they have already been turned over to law enforcement. I wonder what the “missing pieces” are–the video tapes? How fitting too, these two hoodlums will be prosecuted just before Pioneer Day. Can you imagine this happening in say 1899 rather than 2009? My how times have changed.
I hope the prosecution goes forward and further evidence of the incident is released to the publice via the media reports. And, more importantly–I hope they are convicted and fined up to $500.00.
Derek Jones and Matt Aune were cited July 9 for trespassing on the plaza on their way home to the Marmalade neighborhood from a Gallivan Center concert.
“I guess they consider hugging groping,” Aune said Friday. “Regardless of if a kiss is on the cheek or on the lips, it still is not inappropriate — unless you are gay, according to the LDS Church.”
Aune said he held Jones’ hand in the plaza and gave him a kiss on the face.
“These men,” the church statement said, “were asked to stop engaging in behavior deemed inappropriate for any couple on the plaza.”
Aune and Jones have acknowledged they had been drinking at the Gallivan show earlier, and that they refused to leave the church plaza, using profanity, after they were stopped by the guards. Both were handcuffed by the guards and Jones, Aune said, was thrown to the ground. (The guard denied any roughness when asked by a police officer.)
“As far as being lewd and profane [in language],” Aune said, “I think anyone who was detained against their will in the way we were … would be upset.” Aune said the couple plan to contest the trespassing charges in court.
So, the peck on the cheek has graduated to a kiss on the face–nice backtracking there Mr. Aune. Going to contest the charges in court? Outstanding–the impeachment material–by the time the hearing arrives should fill volumes. I wish I could attend the hearing personally. Anyone who lives in Salt Lake area available to attend this hearing? Please let me know–would love to hear your report and post it online. Let me know.