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Casting the Second Stone

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Mormons were the latest target of Ron McRae, leader of the Street Preachers' Fellowship, based in rural Somerset County. McRae (center) and street preacher Larry Craft of New York (right) speak with a Salt Lake City police officer in front of the church conference center during its April 3-4 conference, which attracted a dozen SPF members. Their sign accuses members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- known in Utah colloquially as the LDS church -- of being "Liars, Deceivers, Seducers." (The worldwide activities of McRae and compatriots was documented in a City Paper news feature: "Organize Locally, Annoy Globally," Oct. 29, 2003.) Church member Allen Wyatt of Mesa, Ariz., who attends the semi-annual conferences, says police presence was doubled this time, and new city rules creating "protest zones" and "no-standing zones" worked well in containing the street preachers. While lawyers for the preachers have been fighting the new rules, the regulations prevented confrontations this month with LDS church members, two of whom were arrested last year after scuffling with preachers. "You couldn't stop and have a discussion with them. People couldn't stop and confront them at all," Wyatt says. This year there were no arrests, just "a lot of shouting and a lot of waving around" of ritual undergarments worn by church members -- clothing not usually revealed to non-Mormons (see www.fairlds.org). Lawyers for the Street Preachers' Fellowship were unable to stop Salt Lake City from hemming in their efforts; does Wyatt feel hopeful about future confrontations with them? "Do I feel hopeful that they will engage in rational discourse? No." The preachers were apparently undeterred: Wyatt saw them the following weekend, protesting lack of adherence to their particular brand of Christianity at that hotbed of heresy, the Mesa Easter Festival.

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