Memorial Gardens as Parks and Cemeteries
43 Real Estate Law Journal (Spring 2015)
45 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2014 Last revised: 21 Aug 2015
Date Written: October 6, 2014
Memorial gardens located on the grounds of religious organizations signify a modern burial practice that the law has not recognized, but which should be considered for legal protection. Local congregations own memorial gardens and staff members manage them. But in a period of falling religiosity, congregations and denominations are faced with a conundrum: how to manage these sacred burial grounds when congregations close or merge their churches and seek to sell their property to a developer. The problem, though, is that the denominations might not have rules, procedures or even practices in place to guide congregations in protecting these burial grounds. I argue that congregations should turn these burial grounds into parks — private or public. In addition, the law might step in and treat them as cemeteries. These greater protections, though, have the potential to violate the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) and thus impede congregations’ development of their church properties. Thus, I would argue that where the denominations do not have rules or practices in place, they should begin to develop these, in an attempt to balance their religious mission and their interests in land use and development.
Keywords: memorial gardens; cemeteries; religious land uses
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