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Church Designated as "Historic Landmark"

Court rules that designation violates religious freedom.

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 city's designation of a church as an "historic landmark" violated the church's constitutional right of religious freedom.

Many cities have enacted ordinances giving the city council the authority to designate buildings as landmarks. Such a designation may prohibit the landowner from modifying or selling the building. When these ordinances are applied to churches, a serious conflict with the constitutional guaranty of religious freedom can result.

This was the issue confronting the Washington Supreme Court in an important ruling. A Methodist church in downtown Seattle was erected in 1909. In 1985 the building was designated as a landmark by the city, and the church ...

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Posted:
  • March 3, 1997

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