Church leaders say that would interfere with plans for a new church and the city doesn't have the power to designate the building. "See, churches are different than other properties, we enjoy special protection underneath both the united states and California constitutions and it ought to be part of our cut to say that cities, counties, states should not be telling churches or even be in the discussion about what a church mission, or ministry ought to be, " said church attorney Ken Robbins.
Despite that argument the Merced City Council voted five to two to pursue an historic designation for the church building. Further action is expected next month.
Church leaders are still pushing for demolition. They say they could abandon the church and build a new one elsewhere if the city doesn't let them tear down the old building.