Urban Fold

Congregations vs. Preservationists in Struggle Over Historic Churches

The Catholic Church and other religious groups are facing hard times, with more churches to maintain than their dwindling numbers can support. But when they are clearly landmarks, should churches be allowed to sell off their building stock?

Kim A. O'Connell explains both sides of the battle, where religious groups say restricting what they can do with their property is imposing on their religious freedom:

"A spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, for example, recently characterized the city's effort to landmark six churches as "extremely offensive." Federal and state laws, particularly the Religious Land Use and Institutional Persons Act, protect religious groups from some property use restrictions."

But the preservationists can point to their own precedents.

"So, cities are often left to decide these issues one controversial case at a time," writes O'Connell.

Full Story: The Trouble With Church Preservation

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