09/30/2014: S&G submits opinion letter to ANC regarding historic landmark regulation of St. Thomas church
In a letter to the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B of the District of Columbia, S&G attorneys write:
[L]ocal opponents’ desire to have church ruins 'preserved in their original state, context and place' cannot outweigh the fundamental free exercise rights of a house of worship. Forcing a church to maintain, at its own expense and its own detriment, the remnants of a religious structure based on the desires of a few who wish only to benefit from—but not support the costs of—such structure, irrespective of the church’s needs, is neither reasonable nor permitted under the law.
The ANC 2B then adopted a resolution stating in part
Whereas, the ANC in prior church construction or renovation projects has had concerns that the HPRB does not take into account applicable constitutional and federal law–including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act (RLUIPA)–and that these federal laws supersede the HPRB’s own regulations and impose further limitations the HPRB’s authority.
Therefore, be it RESOLVED that ANC 2B does not object to the concept and massing of the religious component of the project and strongly urges the HPRB to take seriously its duty to follow applicable federal law–including RFRA and RLUIPA–by not imposing undue burdens on the use of this property for religious purposes;