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Church preservation battles heat up in Pennsylvania

Written by The Associated Press | Mar 28, 2016 12:17 AM
church_preservation_philadelphia.jpg

In this March 7, 2016 photo, the sign for the First African Baptist Church hangs from the building in Philadelphia. Religious institutions and preservation groups are regularly clashing in Pennsylvania over what to do with unneeded or crumbling churches of historic significance. The First African Baptist Church was sold last month after the more than 100-year-old stone building, in need of major repairs, was designated a landmark despite the pastor's opposition. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

(Philadelphia) -- Religious institutions and preservation groups are repeatedly clashing in Pennsylvania over what to do with unneeded or crumbling churches of historic significance. 

The skirmishes are occurring even as experts say the trend nationally has been toward greater collaboration. 

Church leaders argue that preservationists and historic landmark agencies are interfering with their right to freedom of religion by trying to stop them from tearing down or otherwise disposing of buildings they no longer want or can't afford. 

Those seeking to save the buildings or artwork within them say religious institutions, given the civic benefits they receive, need to be more civic-minded. 

In Pittsburgh, a Methodist group sued this month to overturn a recommendation that a vacant, century-old church building with many stained glass windows receive landmark status.

A developer had wanted to put up a Starbucks in its place.  

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