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Church Buildings as Historical Landmarks

Designation of a church as a landmark may violate the First Amendment.

Washington
State:
Categories:
Key point: City ordinances that allow church buildings to be designated as historical "landmarks" may violate the constitutional guaranty of religious freedom.

The Washington Supreme Court ruled that a Seattle ordinance that allowed city officials to designate a church building as a "landmark," thereby limiting a church's authority to sell or modify its building, violated the constitutional guaranty of religious freedom.

The city of Seattle adopted an ordinance giving the city authority to declare any building to be a landmark. The ordinance was designed to preserve and protect those sites reflecting significant elements of the city's cultural or historic heritage. Buildings designated as a landmark by the city could not be structurally altered without city approval. The city designated a church to be a landmark, and the church sued the city arguing that the landmarks ...

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Posted:
  • January 3, 1994

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