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For week ended December 05, 1999 Posted 18 Dec 1999

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Briefs filed for Mormon temple construction

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Briefs filed for Mormon temple construction
Belmont MA Citizen-Herald 1Dec99 D1
By Jacqueline Reis: Correspondent

BELMONT, MASSACHUSSETS -- The LDS Church has received support in fighting off a challenge to a Massachussets law which allowed building the Boston Temple. Neighbors of the Temple challenged the Dover Amendment, the law that exempts religious organizations from some local land use restrictions, last year. After loosing their challenge, they appealed, saying that the Dover Amendment violates the U.S. Constitution's doctrine of separation of Church and State.

Now the state attorney general, the New England region of the American Jewish Congress and representatives of 13 religious organizations have filed a total of three friend-of-the-court briefs supporting the Amendment. The briefs claim that the Dover amendment protects smaller religions against religious discrimination by preventing local leaders from interfering with a religion's right to practice.

The briefs were filed on Monday, November 29th, the due date for filing friend-of-the-court briefs. However, a hearing for the appeal itself has yet to be scheduled.

Mark White, attorney for the residents appealing the decision to allow the Temple to proceed, takes the briefs very seriously. "There's some work that's been put into these briefs, and frankly, the issue isn't clear. If the issue was clear, they wouldn't have filed all these briefs."

White says he will write a reply brief to address the issues brought up in the friend-of-the-court briefs. "The court is going to have to consider how to determine if a law advantages religion," said White. "This case has the potential of going to the U.S. Supreme Court."

The LDS Church's attorney, Edward Naughton, welcomed the support, saying that the attorney general's brief is particularly helpful. LaDonna Hatton, the assistant attorney general that wrote the brief, said that the issue was very important for the state. "The outcome of the appeal could affect zoning regulatory schemes throughout the Commonwealth," she wrote in the brief. "The statute draws the appropriate balance between the free exercise of religion and the need of cities and towns to regulate aspects of land use, while fulfilling [the] First Amendment mandate that it not establish religion."

Naughton also said that the briefs filed by other religions were helpful, "The other briefs, for instance the American Jewish Congress brief, talks about some issues that didn't come up in ours, concerns that Jewish congregations have encountered." he said. Their concerns included the right to build synagogues within walking distance of the homes of Jews, because of their religious prohibition against riding in cars on the Sabbath.

The other court case involving the Boston Temple, challenging the steeple's height, has also not yet been given a court date. Because the Church is restricted from constructing the steeple without a resolution of the issue, the Temple could be ready to open without the steeple next summer.

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