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Churches as Historic Landmarks

Restriction of a church's right to demolish a building may violate the First Amendment.

Key point. Restriction of a church's ability to demolish or renovate its sanctuary as a result of a local "landmarks" law may violate the church's first amendment right to freely exercise its religion.

A federal court in Maryland ruled that a church's first amendment right to the free exercise of religion was violated by a city "landmarks" ordinance that barred the church from demolishing an old chapel to construct a new facility. A Catholic church sought to replace its old chapel, which was in disrepair, with smaller, modern facilities, and to add gardens and a parking lot. Because the chapel was part of the city's historic district, the church could not demolish the chapel without first securing permission from a city "historic preservation commission." The church's application for permission was denied by the commission, and the church ...

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  • September 1, 1997

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