Stephen Clark - Legal Director of The American Civil Liberties Union -Utah Chapter

Interviewed Sept 10, 2001

Stephen C Clark attorney.Stephen C Clark attorney updated 2007. Stephen Clark - Legal Director Utah Chapter of The ACLU is currently being interviewed. Mr. Clark is well known in Utah as one like "David facing off with Goliath". Goliath being the Mormon Church and it's confiscation of the one block of Main Street between The Salt Lake Temple and the Church Office Building.

For an example of Mr. Clark's work look at: Judge Rejects Suit Against Plaza Rules The Salt Lake Tribune - 01/03/2001.

Stephen C. Clark received his bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in 1982, and his law degree from the University of Utah College of Law in 1985.

After clerking for Judge Bruce S. Jenkins of the United States District Court for the District of Utah, he joined the law firm of LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae. From 1988 to 1994 he was an associate in the firm’s New York office.

While in New York his practice focused on complex commercial litigation. He also worked pro bono for the American Civil Liberties Union on complex civil rights litigation. In August 1994 he helped establish a LeBoeuf office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when the firm was selected as National Litigation Counsel to the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA). While in Pittsburgh he represented ALCOA in major commercial litigation, and also served on the Board of Directors of the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of the ACLU.

Mr. Clark became a partner of the LeBoeuf firm in January 1995. In October 1996 he accepted a position as European Counsel for ALCOA, based in Milan, Italy.

Since May 1998 he has been the Legal Director of the ACLU of Utah.

Mr. Clark's interview was completed on Sept 10, 2001.

Stephen's Answers To Questions

Why doesn't the ACLU do something about the religious discrimination in Utah County. All the restaurants offer free meals to "MTC Missionaries" through public billboard advertising, but not to any other religious affiliation. Isn't this "profiling" illegal? Swimming pools and public buildings are not open on Sunday because LDS laws forbid it (I guess we are lucky we can sit in the parks on Sunday!) HELP!!! - 04/25/2001 - Held Hostage in Utah County

Stephen: We get a lot of complaints about what people believe to be religious discrimination but what is in fact an inevitable, and entirely legal, product of majoritarian choice. We also get a lot of complaints about alleged discrimination by private parties, but we don't typically handle them because our job is to make sure the government (as opposed to some private party) is not infringing people's constitutional rights. Finally, we get a lot of complaints (like this one) that make general allegations without any specific parties (we can't just go off and sue people - we need plaintiffs who are willing to put their names and reputations on the line, and that is often very difficult here).

Having said all of that, you pose an interesting question. Many local businesses offer discounts or similar inducements to missionaries. I think these run afoul of Utah's public accommodation statute, which generally requires that businesses not discriminate based on sex, race or religious affiliation. We are looking into one such a complaint right now - about restaurants in Utah County - so stay tuned. On the other hand, it's pretty hard to argue that closing public facilities on Sunday is religious discrimination. As for parks, my only advice is that you be careful when, where, and with whom, you are sitting, even in the public parks.

Do you ever go to lunch with Pat Bagely or Robert Kirby and if so what do you guys talk about? - 07/20/2001 - cricket

Stephen: I have never had the pleasure - only the pain of being pricked by their pointed barbs. If ever they would take me to lunch (I can't afford to take them), I would plumb their fertile minds for more light-hearted ways to talk about the issues we face, so that even if people disagree with us, at least they don't think we are a bunch of humorless drones.

After the dust settles on the Main Street case, what may be the next big legal issue we may face with the LDS Church? - 07/18/2001 - Enquiring Mind

Stephen: I believe the LDS church's attacks on the families of lesbians and gays will continue and perhaps escalate, as will its efforts to cloak those attacks in the garb of tolerance: the old "hate the sin but love the sinner" ruse. The church will continue, directly and indirectly, to seek to erect legal firewalls against the formation and legal recognition of non-traditional families, and civil libertarians and lesbian and gay rights activists will continue to seek to extend the institution of marriage to same-sex couples who are willing to embrace its rights and responsibilities.

My prediction: the LDS church will be among the last holdouts against an inevitably, and entirely positive, social change - just as it was when it finally extended the priesthood to blacks more than 20 years after the courts ordered desegregation.

What forecasts are you willing to make regarding the Mormon Church's growth or lack of growth after Hinckley passes the torch on to Monson or Packer? - 07-12-2001 - Enquiring Mind

Stephen: I believe the LDS church will continue to experience substantial growth worldwide, but its local control and influence will continue to decline as increasing migration to Utah inevitably creates a demand for institutions and laws that treat people as adults rather than children who need to be protected from themselves.

What do you have to say about the so-called "free speech zone" the city has graciously allowed protestors during the 2002 Winter Games.? - 07-10-2001 - anon

Stephen: We agree with the United States Supreme Court, that all public streets and sidewalks are "free speech zones" that can only be narrowly regulated. We are disappointed that Salt Lake City apparently has rejected that model in favor of imposing a police state with barely a nod to free speech rights. Also, I hate to say it, but I'm afraid it is a recipe for disaster to "accommodate" only 170 protesters when recent experience indicates that thousands or tens of thousands may descend on the City to share their religious, social and political views on what is, after all, a world stage that dwarfs Seattle, Gothenburg and Genoa combined.

What do you think of Dallin Oaks as an attorney/apostle? Can one really do both well? - 04/04/2001 - Lawyer for the Lord

Stephen: Dallin Oaks was the president of BYU back in the day when I studied there before my LDS mission. He was on the Utah Supreme Court when I started practicing law. I have always had high regard for him as an educator, a lawyer and a judge. I may be idealistic, but I view him as a potential Hugh B. Brown. As such, I continue to hope that as an apostle his mastery of the law and his understanding of constitutional principles will drive him, and perhaps through him the leadership of the church, to a more expansive view of basic human rights.

What is your prediction for the final outcome of The ACLU's case against the Mormon Church over the Main Street issue? - 04-04-2001 - anon

Stephen: Uh, let's see, I predict the ACLU will win! Then the real fun will begin, as the City and the church fight over whether the plaza will just be closed off entirely and placed under a hermetically sealed bubble, or whether the unwashed masses will indeed begin to huddle, and to demonstrate, yearning to be free, in the shadow of the temple. Again, I may be idealistic, but I would like to believe the LDS church will honor its promise to maintain public access, even if that means that from time to time it will have to put up with protesters marching across the plaza.

What kind of threatening mail and phone calls do you receive? And how often? Any pipe bombs? - 04/01/2001 - M. Hofmann

Stephen: Every once in a while, if I don't pay my bills, I get a letter threatening to terminate my cable service or my health insurance or my subscription to The National Review. Other than that, it's all fawning, obsequious, sycophantic fan mail. Seriously, though, like Richard Nixon, people like having us to kick around, so the thought of the dreadful boredom that would ensue if we were not here to stir things up deters every form of violence except vituperative verbal attacks. And of course we encourage those as part of the "marketplace of ideas." Never having traded in the marketplace of purloined or forged documents, moreover, we have avoided pipe bombs altogether.

I'm an ACLU member from Massachusetts and part of my dues goes to the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union. Is there any way I can get them to send that portion to the ACLU of Utah instead, where it will do far more good? - 01/08/2001 - BostonBoy

Stephen: I've been trying to establish a fund just for people like you whom I might importune to augment my meager salary (see above responses adverting to my impecuniosity and its deleterious consequences), but I'm not sure that's what you have in mind. What you should do is renew your membership via our website, We do very much appreciate membership and contributions from those who support what we are trying to do here in Utah, regardless of where they live. Some of our most faithful supporters are from out of state. I'm not sure whether they just feel really sorry for us or if they think we can do some good here.

Have you been working for the American Civil Liberties Union or the Anti-Christs of Logan, Utah? - 01/08/2001 - anon

Stephen: Actually, we are not geographically limited to Cache Valley. Also, we also try to foster the impression - entirely without foundation - that we are very numerous indeed, so as better to confound our enemies. Therefore, the affiliation most often attributed to us is the "Anti-Christ Legion Universal."

We ran around in different groups so Stephen probably does not remember me, but he and I are fellow graduates of Ogden High School, Ogden, Utah, class of '77. Many of the guys Stephen hung out with in high school went on missions and/or became regular church-going family men. Have you maintained contact with your high school friends over the years and if so, how have they reacted to your current station in life?

P.S. Of all the bios in the 20 year reunion album, Stephen's was one of the more interesting. - 01/05/2001 - Ron Williams

Stephen: Of course I remember Ron. I'm just surprised he remembers anything about is aptly-named high school experience, let alone an obscure, bookish nerd like me. I have maintained contact with some of my then-friends, and I have been delighted to experience the amazing diversity and divergence of life's paths. My friends, past and present, seem to regard me with a strange mixture of affection, wonder and pity. For my part, there is mostly affection and immense gratitude.

How does the Mormon Church differ from other U.S. churches in legal aspects? What about human rights aspects? - 01/05/2001 - Deanna Banana

Stephen: This one I answer in all seriousness, and I want to underscore that I am not speaking for the ACLU but for myself. I personally view the LDS church as one of a handful of extreme organizations with an impressive but wholly disproportionate power to mobilize its members in unquestioning support of anti-gay initiatives. I fully respect the LDS church's right to propagate its beliefs about the family, although I wish it would be more sensitive to the fact that many LDS families have lesbian and gay members. I also wish it had enough confidence in the truth and power of its message that it would not deem it necessary to seek to enshrine its beliefs in criminal and civil law.

Are you still a member of the LDS church? If so, what has the pressure been like since you are not toeing the line? - 01/04/2001 - Danno

Stephen: I am still a member - at least I have never been advised otherwise, nor have I felt any need to seek to have my name removed. I am therefore one of the uncounted still touted as part of the fifth-largest (and one of the fastest-growing) denominations in the country. I have never felt any pressure to toe the line, only a desire not to allow my personal experience or views to unduly taint my efforts to take a principled approach to matters that often involve powerful religious, political, social and moral issues.

If you are a disbeliever then would you tell us your story of disaffection? - 01/04/2001 - anon

Stephen: I am not sure what this question means by either "disbeliever" or "disaffection." I certainly feel neither disbelieving nor disaffected in any sense that I now value. Maybe the best answer I can provide is to crib from what Andrew Sullivan once said about Michael Oakeshott's view of religion, belief and spirituality: "He seemed even to enjoy the ambiguity of half-belief, seeing sin as the occasion of a fascinating conversation with oneself and with God, rather than as an oppressive encumbrance to happiness. 'After all,' he quipped, half seriously, 'who would want to be saved?' God might even prefer us as we are: we're more interesting flawed, and, without flaws, no real love is possible anyway, either between us, or between us and God." Taken Unseriously: A Memoir Of Michael Oakeshott, The New Republic (5/6/1991)

Why do you feel the Mormon church wanted to take over the ownership of this piece of public land? - 01/04/2001 -

Stephen: I'm not sure, but I think it has something to do with those mysterious planters/pods that appear atop the fountains at either end of the plaza. Have you noticed? They reflect the same timeless theme, first displayed in the stylistically unsurpassed 70's in front of the Church Office Building, and suggest the aspiration of extra-terrestrial travel or communication.

What is the most humorous incident that happened to you while suing the Mormon Church? - 01/04/2001 - cricket

Stephen: We all got a big kick out of the Bagley cartoon that appeared shortly after the lawsuit was filed. It depicted two bemused LDS officials overlooking Main Street from high in an adjacent church office building. The caption read, “The ACLU wants to remind us we’re not the only game in town – I think they’re kind of cute.”

And although not terribly humorous, the parade of LDS church officials who came to the ACLU’s offices to give testimony in the case provided at least some memorable images and moments. During my interrogation of one witness, he became physically ill, had to lie prone on the floor of our conference room for several minutes to avoid fainting and/or vomiting, and eventually had to be helped out of the building and rushed home.

I now take much more seriously, and view much more sympathetically, letters to the editor or voice-mail messages saying, “You guys make me sick!”

Have you had any serious threats against your person while litigating against the LDS Church? - 01/04/2001 - cricket

Stephen: No, nor (sadly) have I had any serious offers for my person.

How did you first discover that the LDS Church planned on confiscating Main Street between North and South Temple? - 01/04/2001 - cricket

Stephen: We learned about the proposal to transform the block into a pedestrian plaza the same way the public did – from the joint press conference held by Deedee Corradini and Gordon Hinckley on December 1, 1998. We also understood and accepted at face value what was being proposed – the creation of a park-like public space where all would be welcome and where the public would be allowed at all times, day and night.

Our phones immediately began to ring off the hook with complaints urging us to fight the sale.We considered and researched those complaints but concluded that there was little basis to fight the sale itself, and that to do so just because the LDS church was the buyer might sanction religious discrimination. What we and the public didn’t know until months later – just as the City Council approved the sale – was that what the church had in mind was not a park-like public space where all would be welcome, but instead an extension of Temple Square where anyone who engaged in “offensive” speech, conduct or dress could be excluded. That’s when we became involved.

The rest, as they say, is history, still unfolding.

What considerations have you given to actually running for public office? - 07/20/2001 - cricket

Stephen: I haven't really thought about it, but if Rocky Anderson can do it, I suppose anyone can. Actually, I am just waiting for the right moment. I remember reading something about the Constitution hanging by a thread . . .

Comment Section

ACLU=Aging Communits Leftover Union - 02/18/2007 - JK

I believe that the church has acted fraudulently against its own members by withholding unfavorable information. The church has acted much like an Enron in how it has dealt with its members. What are the possibilities of suing the church for tithing refunds based upon their history of prevarication? - 12/17/2004 - anon

Homosexuality (which stephen clark practices) is against the law of the Lord and against nature and all that is wholesome and pure- even scientifically it brings self destruction upon those who practice it through aids and infectious disease, it is the natural order of the universe that homosexuals suffer with aids and die becuase it is such a greivous sin in the eyes of our savior Jesus, it is unholy, disgusting, evil and self-serving. it is the ultimate selfishiness and those unlucky to have those desires burning in them for their own gender, will suffer eternally, except they repent and ask forgiveness of our savior Jesus Christ, and forsake the rotting practice of homosexuality. - 04/04/2004 - anon

It seems to me that Stephen's political views can be described as 'radically liberal,' 'positivist,' 'post-Christian' and to some extent 'irreverent.' I see no reason why those who are moderate to conservative, post-positivistic, theists, and who choose to give tacit respect to all other viewpoints should have their arguments immediately dismissed. As a lawyer he must know that the issues being discussed are much more open to interpretation than he is allowing, but, of course, he may only be interested in presenting a lawyer' brief--also called card-stacking by those dealing with logic. Even if this is the case, the either/or reasoning he offers--and is the case so often with other articles on this of 'Lampoon'--is surely indicative of a radically biased viewpoint. We are certainly in deep trouble if this type of shallow reasoning is representative of the liberal left. - 03/26/2003 - from

Hang in there! You are doing great work. I support everything you do. The church NEEDS reigns! - 02/21/2003 - An "active" TBM - True Believing Mormon

As a fellow lawyer and 1st Amendment junkie, I say keep fighting the good fight. What the LDS Church did in creating a offensive free speech zone defies everything constitutional. Give em hell. I am also confident that when the law suit makes its way up you will win. I don't agree with the ACLU on much but you are right on this one. - 10/05/2002 - seamus_22031

*Yawn* The ACLU... Biggest bully organization on the block. Anti-Religious hate group if you ask me.. - 10/01/2002 - anon

Dear Mr. Clark,

Since you continue to make a "fussy stink" about the sale of Main Street to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please explain to me why the majority opinion should be held subterfuge to your "secularist, atheist" views? It appears to me that people like you think that "YOU" are the only ones who have a right to "free speech;" and, if anyone, particularly the Church, opposes your "anti-God, anti-religion" views, then those persons don't deserve "First Amendment Rights!" Otherwise, you wouldn't be doing what you are doing!

The Bill of Rights has been wrongly interpreted to mean that "the rights of the minority" are protected. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the case of "BARRON V. BALTIMORE," Chief Justice Marshall clearly, and unequivocally affirmed that the "Bill of Rights" in the Constitution was a "series of prohibitions against the federal government to prevent it from encroaching on the states." Unfortunately, you don't believe that; and furthermore, the "Federal Judiciary" has gone from the doctrine of "Constitutional Supremacy," to "Judicial Supremacy, or activism." Moreover, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney warned "It (the Constitution) speaks not only in the same words, but with the same meaning and intent with which it spoke when it came from the hands of the framers." (DRED SCOTT V. SANFORD)

Oh, how so far away from that ideal has the federal judiciary gone; away from "Constitutional Supremacy," to "judicial activism;" and you support them! You don't understand the Constitution, sir! You don't even begin to understand the intent of our great Founding Fathers!

I stongly support the Church's right to buy the section of Main street. It is great to be able to go for a few hours in peace and solemnity without having to put up with all of the "vile, foul, filthy language; cigarette smoke; loud, raucous music; and "booze" all over the place!" The Church will win the suit!

As for you running for public office someday, I will vehemently oppose you every step of the way; and, that is a promise! - 04/28/2002 -Kenneth Thomas - from

Very interesting interview, and humorous too. Would it be too pretentious if I stated the obvious about "THE" Mormon Church downtown land grab? (The reason it happened is because of the following; (A)The Mormon Coporation is a publicity whore (B) Being publicity whore(s), they want to build their own promotional bastion land/quasi version of Disney World (C) They could, SO they DID.) Ironically, Downtown might have been a place where people actually wanted to go if THE Church wouldn't have overdeveloped it in the first place. Now! MORE(!) developement is the Perfuct Mor(m)on solution! - 10/28/2001 - Pat McKitrick

Though I'm sure Stephen doesn't remember, I believe I met him briefly while my college friend from Smith was serving as an intern in the SLC ACLU. Having visited many different ACLU offices before, I was amazed by how tiny the offices were in comparison. Especially since there is so much to be done! I was amused by the collection of LDS Church vs. ACLU political cartoons in the break room. Though I actually am an active member of the LDS Church, I have to say that I am often offended by the behavior and vehemence of the misguided souls in Utah who think "Love the sinner, hate the sin" means it's ok to spew epithets about homosexuals, "non-members", drinkers, smokers, AIDS victims, etc. I was very saddened to find so much hate language in Utah. I'm glad that the ACLU is there to hold a mirror up to the faces of the ignorant. Keep up the good work, Stephen & Crew. -04/11/2002 - from -Annilita

I've a lot of respect for Stephen and what he's doing. Must be hard to go to work defending the likes of even a Jerry Falwell and the venom he spewed aimed at the ACLU. It isn't always easy to live Voltaire's maxim: "I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it...." - 10/12/2001 - Peter Hildebrandt

Stephen, I do hope that you run for office some day as president of "The Common Sense and Decency Party." You'll have my vote and checkbook. - cricket - 09/11/2001


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