July 11, 2005


Ruling on Property Seizure Rallies Christian Groups (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 7/11/05, NY Times)

Conservative Christian groups seeking to galvanize support for a battle over a Supreme Court nomination are rallying around the unlikely symbol of a mega-church in Los Alamitos, Calif., one of a handful of houses of worship that have tangled with towns over the use of eminent domain to take their properties.

In the aftermath of a Supreme Court ruling two weeks ago in favor of using eminent domain for development that increases a city's tax base, many Christian groups are warning supporters that the tax-exempt status of churches may make them targets, often citing the attempt to take a plot of land from the Cottonwood Christian Center in Los Alamitos. [...]

In an interview, Jay Sekulow, a Christian radio host and the chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, said the case had touched a nerve.

"We have had more response to this case than we have had to the decision on the Ten Commandments - how about that?" Mr. Sekulow said. "I think it ranks up there with any case we have ever had in showing that the court does, in fact, impact your life."

The beauty of the ruling is that because it was decided properly in legal terms it affords an excellent wedge issue in legislative terms.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 11, 2005 6:47 AM

If increasing the tax base counts as 'public use' for purposes of eminent domain, as appears to be the gist of the Kelo decision, then no religious property anywhere in America is safe.

The Founding Fathers may have enabled some stupid things to pass constitutional muster, but I hardly think they intended for government power to be this sweeping when it comes to deciding what 'public use' should be.

Posted by: bart at July 11, 2005 9:52 AM


Find the politicians willing to run on taking churches. It's a non-threat.

Posted by: oj at July 11, 2005 9:58 AM

A quote everyone should be familiar with comes to mind:
"...[A]ll experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

The Kelo decision will be a problem, it seems to me, in places with one party dominance. Ideally, politicians would know that most of the public recoils in horror from taking land from individuals to give to corporations. But in too many places you'll get re-elected no matter what, so why care what the public thinks? There's been a very similar case in Waikiki for the last few years, where all local pols know that the real estate developers can and will give their money to someone else, but the voters won't do so with their votes. So who are they going to listen to?

Posted by: at July 11, 2005 11:31 AM


Nationally, you are correct. In pockets like San Francisco, suburban Philadelphia (where court battles have been fought over church expansions), suburban Boston, and other 'blue' areas, it is not only possible, but likely. The churches have more reason to settle or back down (out of a desire to be 'good neighbors'). The politicians have reason to fight, because the tax base is shrinking.

Posted by: jim hamlen at July 11, 2005 1:18 PM