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Utah attorney general: Town's anti-U.N. law is unconstitutional

By The Associated Press

07.19.01

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LA VERKIN, Utah — Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff told La Verkin City Council members that their new anti-United Nations law was unconstitutional.

Expressing distaste for international influence is one thing, but restricting free speech and association is unconstitutional, Shurtleff said.

"You're responsible to uphold the rights of all citizens, not just those who agree with you," Shurtleff told council members yesterday. "Throughout this document you are violating the First Amendment, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and possibly the Fifth Amendment."

He urged them to repeal their ordinance and either rewrite it or replace it with a nonbinding resolution. They said they would think about it.

The ordinance bans U.N. activities within the city, prohibits city contracts with businesses that work with the United Nations and compels any resident who works on U.N. initiatives to register with the city, file an annual report of his or her activities, pay a fee and post a sign that reads "United Nations work conducted here."

Shurtleff said he had no interest in suing to overturn the law, but had no doubt that others would.

City Attorney V. Lowry Snow also cited problems with the ordinance and noted that it would affect UNICEF drives.

Council member Victor Iverson said that was not the intent of the ordinance.

"We all know our intent," Iverson said. "We need to rework the ordinance so it reads what we want it to say."

Numerous residents backed the attorney general's sentiments, and a few expressed support for the United Nations.

"I am for removal of land mines in Third World countries," Nina Fitzgerald said, referring to a U.N. program. She also noted the organization's efforts to feed starving children, promote nuclear disarmament, aid war refugees and oversee the World Health Organization.

But just as many residents urged the council to cling to its statement. They said someone had to take a stand if the United Nations' influence was to be challenged.

Some objected to the United Nations' interest in population control, which goes against the Mormon tradition of big families.

"It all boils down to one word: sovereignty," Judith Iverson said. "What we eat, where we go, what we do in bed even," she said. "Who is the U.N.? They're not us," except for a few American staffers. "The rest of them are just a bunch of foreigners that want to take our freedoms."

Councilman Al Snow said the ordinance affects only those who value international interests over those of the United States. "If they're not willing to stand up for the Constitution and they'd rather stand up for the U.N., then I don't want them here," he said.

Iverson said, "The only thing wrong with this (ordinance) is it's not politically correct. If we repeal it, I can tell you what the headline in every paper is going to be. If we repeal it, I'm saying I'm wrong, and I'm not."

Update

Utah town tones down anti-U.N. law
Changes prompted by state attorney general's warning that ordinance violated residents' speech, assembly rights.  07.26.01

Previous

Utah town declares independence from United Nations
But civil libertarian says La Verkinís ordinance violates free speech by requiring residents who back organization to post signs indicating their support.  07.06.01

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