Rendering Ceasar Right Into Federal Court
(Posted by guest blogger Steve Hendrix) As predicted by the true proprietor of this blog two weeks ago, the fight between the DC Historic Preservation Review Board and the Third Church of Christ, Scientist is going federal, and it's going fast. The fact that church supporters were able, at the height of the August doldrums, to scare up a crowd of supporting ministers and civil rights activists to gather this morning on the steps of the 16th Street building signals that they're ready to make a serious push.
They're standing in the heat at this hour to announce the filing of a civil rights lawsuit meant to settle this question: Does a city's right to protect its architectural heritage trump the freedom of a congregation to have a church building that functions the way they need it to. Against the congregation's wishes, city preservationists last year lowered the protective shroud of historic designation over the 36-year-old concrete building. Last month, the board voted unanimously to deny the church's request to tear down the bunker, as church leaders call their blocky home, and build a facility that meets its needs as a working place of worship, i.e., one that has windows, air conditioning and insulation.
In turning down the church's request, and declining to consider an appeal, preservation Board Chairman Tersh Boasberg invited the Christian Scientists to take it to the judge. As Dupont Circle ANC Commissioner Mike Silverstein noted yesterday, the city should be careful what it wishes for in this case. This civil rights challenge, he said, has the potential to do for the District's ability to regulate churches what the recent Supreme Court ruling did to the city's authority over guns...blow it away altogether.
By Steve Hendrix |
August 7, 2008; 10:49 AM ET
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