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Landmarks Testimony Before the Historic Review Commission on Proposed Legislation by Councilman Bob O’Connor to Restrict the Nomination of Religious Properties

January, 9th 2003

Given by Elisa Cavalier, Attorney and Landmarks Staff Member

We are here today to consider Council Bill 1148 proposed by Councilman O’Connor. Let’s look more closely at issue at hand. It is the ….

People — that have a faith

People– that have — and continue to –help to build religious structures in which to exercise their religion,

People (not the church as a separate entity)
who have a constitutional right through the First Amendment to the free exercise of religion … to express their religious views, to associate, and assemble for that purpose.

People who have a right, through Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, “to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.”
It is for the

People through the Declaration of Policy in Pennsylvania’s History Code that “the irreplaceable historical, architectural, archaeological, and cultural heritage of this Commonwealth should be preserved and protected…[for] future generations.” [37 Pa. C.S. § 102]
and it is the

People, as well as non-profit organizations, school boards, and businesses … ALL whom have the right under our existing ordinance to claim an ECONOMIC HARDSHIP as a remedy to application of the ordinance.

Yet it is the Church that claims that Pittsburgh’s preservation law interferes with the people’s right to the FREE EXERCISE of religion.

So what is there solution?


Our government and its laws are to be

This legislation takes away from the people, — whether they are members of the congregation or the general public — the ability to participate in our democratic form of government. It prohibits PEOPLE to nominate religious structures for historic designation.

The proposed ordinance sets the church apart on a law of general applicability. Councilman O’Connor’s bill is inappropriate and should not be endorsed.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633