BOSTON (AP) -- A Mormon temple may build an 83-foot steeple despite protests from residents who call it an eyesore, the state's highest court ruled Wednesday
The dispute hinged on whether the steeple was essential to the religious mission of the temple. Otherwise, state law allows zoning restrictions to be imposed against religious buildings to govern such features as height and parking.
Writing for an unanimous court, Chief Justice Margaret Marshall said judges have no business deciding whether a particular religion requires a certain architectural feature.
"A rose window at Notre Dame Cathedral, a balcony at St. Peter's Basilica, are judges to decide whether these architectural elements are 'necessary' to the faith served by those buildings?" she asked.
The court also found that there was clear evidence that "the church values an ascendancy of space for the religious ceremonies performed in temples."
The steeple, which has not been built, had been approved by a local planning board as part of a $30 million temple that opened in October in Belmont, a Boston suburb.
The Mormon Church called the steeple an integral part of the design and religiously inspired.
A state appeals court had agreed with residents that the steeple was not a "necessary element of the Mormon religion."
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