Keeler v. Mayor & City of Cumberland

940 F. Supp. 879 (1996)

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Keeler v. Mayor & City of Cumberland

United States District Court for the District of Maryland
940 F. Supp. 879 (1996)

  • Written by Jody Stuart, JD

Facts

A Cumberland historic-preservation ordinance required permission from the Historic Preservation Commission (commission) to demolish buildings located in Cumberland historic districts. The commission denied permission to Cardinal William Keeler and Sts. Peter and Paul’s Roman Catholic Congregation, Inc. (collectively, the church) (plaintiffs) to demolish a monastery and chapel located in a Cumberland historic district. The church wanted to replace the buildings, which were in disrepair, with modern facilities, gardens, and a parking lot. The ordinance listed several distinct circumstances, or exemptions, under which the commission could approve an application for demolition that the commission would otherwise be required to reject. The church brought an action against the City of Cumberland (city) (defendant), alleging that the refusal to permit demolition of the church’s buildings violated the right of free exercise of religion under the United States Constitution. The church submitted affidavits from several of its officials that Roman Catholic law and tradition required the replacement of the monastery and chapel with facilities better suited to its liturgical needs. Many of the church’s parishioners also submitted affidavits, explaining that the existing buildings did not meet the needs of the congregation and that the new construction was vital to the spiritual growth of the parish. The church moved for summary judgment. The city opposed the summary-judgment motion and, in its opposition, did not assert that historic preservation was a compelling governmental interest.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Smalkin, J.)

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