JERUSALEM (Aug. 11)
The long controversy over the construction of the Brigham Young University here seems to be over. The ministerial committee which was appointed eight months ago to deal with the problem has accepted the opinion of Deputy Attorney General Yoram Bar-Sela that there is no legal way to halt the construction, which is now in an advanced stage.
A proposal by Interior Minister Yitzhak Peretz to stop the construction in spite of Bar-Sela’s opinion was rejected by the ministerial committee by a vote of three. Dr. Yosef Burg, Minister of Religious Affairs, and Yosef Shapira, Minister-Without-Portfolio, voted with Peretz.
The committee, however, instructed the Israel Land Authority to amend the university’s lease of the land on which the campus is being built to include an explicit commitment by the university not to engage in any missionary activities. The university officials stated several times in the past that they were willing to do so.
The construction of the Mormon center has been under large-scale attack by Orthodox circles, including the two Chief Rabbis, who have warned that its real purpose was to try to convert Jews.
The construction of the center was approved in 1977 by the Likud government of Premier Menachem Begin, and by the Jerusalem municipality. Located on five acres of land, the center will contain housing and catering services for nearly 200 students, as well as classrooms and an auditorium. According to Dr. Ellis Rasmussen, former Dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University, the purpose of the center was to enable Mormon students to get to know Israel.