Supreme Court allows historic churches to raze buildings
The Supreme Court yesterday rejected a challenge to a California law exempting churches from landmark preservation. Without comment, it let stand a narrow 4-3 decision by the California Supreme Court upholding the law, which was enacted in 1994 when the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles and other churches were trying to overhaul or close buildings. "By providing the exemption, the state simply stepped out of the way of the religious property owner," Justice Marvin Baxter wrote in that decision (PDF | DOC). Without the law, Baxter wrote, preservation concerns "could affect the ability of many owners to carry out their religious missions." (See Weblog's earlier coverage.) But critics had argued that that the law gave special preference to religion, opening doors in the real estate market that are closed to nonreligious companies and organizations.

Court also rejects 'faith healing' defense
The Supreme Court yesterday also rejected the appeal of a Pennsylvania couple who lost two of their 13 children because they believe only God can cure illness. In 1991, Clayton Nixon, 8, died of an ear infection. Dennis and Lorie Nixon prayed over their child, but sought no medical services. As a result, they were arrested on charges of involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child. They pleaded no contest and were put on probation. Four years later, their 16-year-old daughter Shannon died of diabetes acidosis—also treatable. It took less than two hours for a 1997 jury to find the couple guilty of manslaughter.

Delivering the sentence shortly thereafter, Judge Norman Callan wrote, "They are good, family people. Except they endanger the well-being of their children ...

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