JERUSALEM (Jan. 15)
The special ministerial committee established to study the Mormon Center presently under construction on Mt. Scopus is not likely to halt the controversial project, sources close to the committee said this week.
But the panel, headed by Religious Affairs Minister Yosef Burg, is expected to propose measures that it hopes will end the fierce protests and demonstrations by Orthodox Jews here and abroad who claim the Mormon institution will become a center for missionary activity in Israel.
The project is sponsored by Brigham Young University of Provo, Utah, the educational branch of the Mormon Church, headquartered in Salt Lake City. Mormon leaders have pledged there will be no proselytizing in Israel and agreed to accept an Israeli advisory board of secular and lay religious leaders to monitor the Center’s activities.
The committee headed by Burg, veteran leader of the National Religious Party, may propose that the Mormon Center be classified officially as a theological seminary as well as a university. That would put it under the joint jurisdiction of the Education Ministry and the Religious Affairs Ministry.
The Burg committee was set up by the Cabinet two weeks ago after the Labor-Likud unity coalition government came under intense pressure from the religious parties in the coalition to kill the project. It was initiated during a Likud administration, is strongly backed by Likud and Labor ministers, and has received the requisite building licenses from all the relevant authorities.
Its supporters argue that the Mormon Center will not only make an economic contribution to Jerusalem but will stand out as the first major American institution built under Israel government auspices on land conquered by Israel in the 1967 war.