Religious Groups Support Mormon Temple Plans

January 8, 2001

Source: The Boston Globe

On January 8, 2001, The Boston Globe reported that "Catholics, Protestants, and Jews yesterday welcomed a Supreme Court decision upholding the right of Mormons to build a giant temple in Belmont, saying the decision guarantees continued freedom for religious groups in Massachusetts." Many religious groups were watching the case, in which neighbors asked to have the temple bulldozed, arguing that allowing the temple "violated a constitutional prohibition against the government establishment of religion."

"At stake in the Mormon case was the so-called Dover Amendment, a provision of state law adopted in 1950 that sharply limits the ability of local governments to restrict land use by religious and educational institutions." Neighbors argued that the Dover Amendment now gives an unfair advantage to religious institutions in zoning matters.

The US District Court and the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejected that argument, and the US Supreme Court refused to hear the case, essentially supporting the apellate court ruling.

Religious groups celebrated the decision as an affirmation of religious freedom, even for minority religions. They will be watching carefully as legislation to modify the Dover Amendment is considered and as courts consider challenges to the Belmont Temple's plans for a large steeple and gold-leaf statue. A state Superior Court judge decided against the Temple in this issue, and the case will go to appeal at the state Supreme Judicial Court on Friday.