In December 2007, the District of Columbia's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB), in a unanimous decision, landmarked the Third Church of Christ Scientist, built by the firm of famous architect I.M. Pei in 1970, because of the building’s architectural significance. The decision was controversial and drew community and media attention because the landmark was a modern structure and the designation was made over the opposition of the congregants and some community members. As a result of the landmark designation, the congregation’s ability to redevelop the church will be limited and will require HPRB approval. The church argued that the building is too expensive to maintain while some community members argued that the building is "architectural blight."
Still, HPRB found that the church is an important and significant example of Brutalism, an architectural style associated with the 1950s to 1970s known for the use of roughly cast concrete. Because of interest surrounding the Third Church of Christ Scientist landmark decision, city officials are now poised to engage in a conversation about the wisdom of passing an ordinance that specifically allows religious institutions to opt out of historic preservation designations. In fact, a bill that would allow religious exemptions for historic properties was recently proposed by a city council member then quickly withdrawn. Because the bill was withdrawn, this paper will not focus exclusively on this bill. However, the possibility remains that a similar bill may be introduced and the previously proposed bill will be used for a point of reference for how a potential city ordinance in the District of Columbia could look.
Hill, Susan Corts, "Is an Exemption from Historic Preservation Designation for Religious Institutions Needed in the District of Columbia?" (2008). Georgetown Law Historic Preservation Papers Series. 27.