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For week ended August 08, 1999 Posted 29 Aug 1999

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Temple neighbors plan to challenge court's Dover Amendment decision

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."

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information