Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Aldermanic Privilege vs. Religious Freedom, Part II: Historic Preservation Boogaloo

[photo by Andrew Huff]


Fresh off the heels of Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno's Chik-Fil-A controversy, a Catholic parish is accusing a different alderman in Logan Square of using "aldermanic privilege" to suppress their freedom of religious expression.

...that is, the right to tear down a clergy dormitory building that happens to be zoned as Chicago Landmark:
Claiming their religious freedom had been violated, the protesters rallied over Colón's alleged refusal to help the parish find a way to remove the official Chicago Landmark status of their rectory. While the rectory was designated as a landmark as part of the Logan Square Boulevards District established in 2005, the parish said it never wanted the building in the district, can't afford to maintain it, and would rather tear it down, but can't due to the building's legal protection as a landmark. Furthermore, the parish alleged that the alderman had purposely left his house out of the district, and should use his power as alderman to help St. Sylvester do the same. Meanwhile, a dozen counter-protesters from a group called Logan Square Preservation stood in front of the alderman's office with their own signs and slogans, calling for the preservation of the St. Sylvester rectory's landmark status - and the building itself -- at all costs.
To understand what exactly took place, and why a building typically used to house clergy members even became a historic Chicago landmark, it's necessary to go all the way back to the early history of Logan Square.
In an ironic twist, the new Chicago ward map takes into effect this November, and guess which alderman gets St. Sylvester church in his ward?
When asked if St. Sylvester would take the fight to Alderman Moreno, Rev. Stein said he'd rather resolve the issue now, and not take it to the new alderman. However, he added, "We don't want this to become his problem, but it will be his problem if it's not dealt with."

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