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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended July 30, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 04Aug00

Summarized by Michael Nielsen

Congress OKs end to religious zoning bias

WASHINGTON, DC -- A bill intended to stop restrictive zoning practices against churches passed by a voice vote in both the House and the Senate. The bill, sponsored by LDS Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) represents a compromise on a broader bill. The original bill would have ensured a wider range of activities, such as door-to-door missionary activity and Jewish schoolchildren's ability to wear yarmulkes. Concerns over the constitutionality of the earlier bill prompted the passage of the weaker, revised bill.

Hatch said that "at the core of religious freedom is the ability for assemblies to gather and worship together. Finding a location to do so, however, can be quite difficult when faced with pervasive land regulations."

The difficulty of finding a location to build churches and temples was exacerbated following Supreme Court decisions that local governments used to prohibit building any religious buildings. Cities such as Forest Hills, Tennessee, refused to let the LDS Church build a temple at an intersection where three other churches already were present. The city argued that there already were enough churches at the intersection, and would not allow any more to be constructed.

"America is the most successful multi-faith country in all recorded history largely due to both components of the phrase 'religious liberty,' " Hatch said. "Surely it is because of our Constitution's zealous protection of liberty that so many religions have flourished and so many faiths have worshipped on this soil. This measure is an important protection of our religious liberty."

Hatch's bill also adds protections to the religious practices of mental hospital patients and prisoners, provided that they do not negatively affect institutional security or discipline.

Congress OKs end to religious zoning bias
Deseret News 28Jul00 N1
By Lee Davidson: Deseret News Washington correspondent


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