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 ...