By authorizing the government to take the homes, lands and businesses of American citizens, the Supreme Court of the United States has given a whole new meaning to the concept of “public-private partnerships.” Empowered and protected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week in Kelo v. New London, rich and powerful corporations and developers can now form an axis of back scratchers with local politicians that will put everyone’s home, farm, and business at risk of being condemned under the government’s power of eminent domain.
Of course, the politicians will only hand our property over to cronies to serve the “public good.”
The ”’Kelo”’ decision is the logical progression of 40 years of judicial activism that has systematically undermined the U.S. Constitution by finding new rights and denying established ones. For instance, over the last 40 years there has been a steady encroachment on religious liberty by the federal judiciary. But those that are not concerned about or embarrassed by “religious things” have stood by while the federal courts have shredded our religious freedom. They failed to understand that the weakening of one section of the Constitution by judicial activists renders the rest of the Constitution susceptible to attack as well.
Moreover, the majority of the American public stood by silently after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling in which the Court found a “constitutional right to privacy” that included aborting otherwise healthy babies. Actually, this “right to privacy” was a “made-up” right to justify the Supreme Court’s Griswold v. Connecticut ruling in 1964. But in 1964 the majority of people were not concerned that by making up a right, the Supreme Court had overstepped its bounds and weakened the Constitution.
Now the Court has returned to Connecticut four decades later, scene of the aforementioned crime against the Constitution, to make up a new and dangerous right for the government to take private property. And millions of Americans that previously were unconcerned about the Supreme Court’s abuse of the Constitution are now outraged.
The Kelo case pitted a handful of homeowners, including an 87 year-old woman who had lived her entire life in the same house, against the city of New London, Connecticut. The city had condemned their property in order to give it to a developer who plans to build a retail and corporate complex.
In writing for the majority, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, “The City has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community including -but by no means limited to-new jobs and increased tax revenue.”
What this decision does is create an environment of uncertainty for anyone that owns property, whether it is a home, farm, or business that might be considered a prime location for retail or industrial development. All a city, county, or state official needs to do is produce an estimate of how much more revenue would be produced for the government to spend and they can justify condemning our property under this expanded definition of eminent domain.
Churches located in prime areas should be especially concerned about the long-term implications of this ruling because they are tax-exempt, meaning they render little benefit to government revenues compared with businesses or residential developments. Not only could local governments justify taking church property in order to bring new jobs into the community and to increase tax revenues, they may now be able to justify preventing churches from buying property in areas that would otherwise be prime residential or business property.
If you think this is an exaggeration, consider what Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in her dissent against the majority’s opinion. Justice O’Connor wrote, “Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party.”
For instance, the city of Cypress, California, condemned the property of the Cottonwood Christian Center in order to use it for a Costco store. According to Steven Greenhut, author of Abuse of Power: How Government Misuses Eminent Domain, Cypress city officials “