Neutralism as pluralistic diverse history: government support for preservation stewardship of historic religious properties
Pogue, Dennis J.
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America’s historically designated religious sites face a unique set of legal and financial preservation challenges. These properties tend to be financed through fluctuating membership and fundraising, and can be denied public preservation funding if violating the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Beyond their evident architectural and historical significance, an economic impact analysis demonstrates the financial value of benefits these sites provide to the public. A historical analysis of related policy, statutory law, and judicial review reveals the development of neutralist Establishment Clause interpretation that allows public subsidized funds to be disbursed to religious institutions that are providing a secular charitable benefit as non-profit organizations. Two case study sites in Baltimore City demonstrate how public funds have been received by following best practices in secular use restriction and preservation management. Recommendations then propose legally defining, guiding, and potentially regulating the neutral disbursement of government preservation funds to historic sacred sites.