Summarized by Kent Larsen
Court sides with Mormons in battle over massive Belmont temple
Boston MA Herald 2Jun99 C3
by Eric Convey
A Federal judge in Massachusetts has thrown out one of the two remaining
court challenges to the Boston Temple, upholding a state law that exempts
religious groups from local zoning regulations. In the ruling, U.S.
District Court Judge Doublas P. Woodlock noted that "The Dover Amendment
has a secular purpose of prohibiting discrimination." The Dover Amendment
is the popular name for the 1950 Massachusetts law that exempts religious
and other nonprofit groups from local zoning.
"It's a good day for religions throughout the state," said LDS Church
member Ken Harvey, who is a lawyer.
The suit was brought by Margaret Boyajian, Charles Counselman and Jean
Dickinson, whoclaim that the Dover law violates the separation of church
and state in the U.S. Constitution. They note that the law would not exempt
an athiest group from local zoning. They plan to appeal the case to the
District Court level. "If you're going to win a case like this, you're
going to have to take it up (to a higher court), because very few judges
are going to throw out a state law,'' said Mark White, attorney for the
The remaining case is a challenge to the size of the Temple's steeple. The
Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals allowed a 139-foot steeple, but the zoning
bylaws limit structures to 78 feet. Construction on the spire is on hold
until the case is resolved. Harvey notes that loosing that case would have
a significant impact on the building, "We'd have to have a church without
a steeple," he said. "That's an odd sight in New England."