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
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