Summarized by Kent Larsen
Temple neighbors plan to challenge court's Dover Amendment decision
Belmont MA Citizen-Herald 4Aug99 C3
By Adriana Bobinchock: Citizen-Herald Staff Writer
Three neighbors of the LDS Temple under construction in Belmont,
Massachussetts have filed an appeal of the U.S. District Court's May
ruling against them. They claim that US District Court Judge Douglas
Woodlock ignored their arguments and the law. They claimed that
Massachussetts' Dover amendment, under which the town of Belmont
allowed the LDS Church to construct the Temple, is unconstitutional.
Their attorney, Mark White, says that Judge Woodlock's ruling was
wrong. "We think the judge was incorrect in his ruling," said White.
"We felt his rationale was contradicted by the law." He also says
that Woodlock didn't address the main issues in their argument.
But the LDS Church's attorney, Ken Harvey, says that he is
disappointed with the appeal. "I think the judge made it extremely
clear how he felt," said Harvey. "It was very clear where the law
came down. Why would our opponents want to spend additional
hard-earned money on what is clearly a losing battle?" He says that
the Dover Amendment is clearly not a violation of the Constitution,
but instead protects religion. "It is not to assist religion, but to
prevent town and city governments [from] discriminating against
religion," said Harvey. "[The plaintiffs] are trying to twist what
the Dover Amendment is saying by saying it is establishing religion,
which it clearly is not."
According to White, the appeal was filed 30 days after Judge
Woodlock's decision. He hopes that the appeal can be heard as early
as this fall, but he isn't too optimistic about the timing. "It's
hard to tell," said White. "We'll hope for the fall, but I don't know
what [the court's] schedule is like." Before the appeal is heard,
briefs must be filed and the case much be docketed. "At this time the
record has not been filed and it has not been docketed," said Harvey.
"Once that's been filed, the clerk will tentatively set a month for
arguments to be heard."
But even if the appeal is heard soon, that may not be the end of the
matter. Both sides say that they would consider an appeal to the U.S.
Supreme Court. "Yes, it is [a real option]," said White. "We knew
this was going to be a long fight when we started this thing." While
Harvey notes that the Supreme Court doesn't hear every case, he says
all of this delays the issue. "The bottom line result is it just
keeps going on and on and on," he says. "We're absolutely confident
because it is the right decision."