Property rights? [Sunday, Jan. 29, 2006, 6:55 pm]
I just found out about a Supreme Court decision that was made last year, and frankly I think it's rather disturbing. It is summarized here, but I'll post some more details below:
August 1, 2005
There has been much attention focused on the Supreme Court of the United States in recent months. But, a decision by the high court late last term received little notice – a decision that could have dramatic ramifications for the religious community.
In the final days of the term ending in June, the Supreme Court issued a decision involving private property – a decision that could have grave consequences for the religious community. By a vote of 5-4, the high court gave local governments unprecedented power to take private property in what’s known as the power of eminent domain.
In the decision in Kelo v. New London, the majority held that the government has the authority to take private property from one individual and give it to another private owner if it concludes that such a transfer would benefit the community through economic development.
The decision not only gives the government a green light to take private property like homes and businesses – but churches and religious organizations could be in the crosshairs, too.
The troubling decision brought a sharp response from the minority – Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Justice O’Connor – just days before announcing her retirement – authored a stinging dissent in the case expressing concern that the majority redefined the meaning of “public use.” Justice O’Connor wrote that the majority opinion “holds that the sovereign may take private property currently put to ordinary private use, and give it over for new, ordinary private use, so long as the new use is predicted to generate some secondary benefit for the public – such as increased tax revenue, more jobs, maybe even aesthetic pleasure.”
But Justice O’Connor did not stop there. She warned that in expanding the definition of “public use,” the majority implied an “absurd argument” that “any single family home might be razed to make way for an apartment building, or any church might be replaced with a retail store, or any small business might be more lucrative if it were instead part of a national franchise.” Justice O’Connor added: “The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.”
The Kelo decision turns the Fifth Amendment on its head.
In light of the Kelo decision, the fact that churches and religious organizations are tax-exempt puts them in a precarious position when it comes to evaluating their “value” to the community. This Supreme Court decision could very well clear the way for the taking of churches to make room for economic development that will enhance the tax base.
Obviously it's not just churches that are at stake there. Another article talks about how a woman was forcibly removed from the home she had lived in all her life, to make way for more recent building developments.
Of the 9 Justices, only Clarence Thomas, Sandra Day O'Connor, William Rehnquist, and Antonin Scalia voted against this. Gee, these conservatives are ruining our country, aren't they?
Vitality - Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009