The state now has the power to shut down any church of its choosing. Alarmist you say? Think again. The Supreme Court’s Kelo v. New London ruling opened the door. Under the logic of the ruling – that government may seize private property and give it to private developers in order to generate greater tax revenue – every church in America applies. Churches are tax exempt, hence virtually any “use” except a church generates greater tax revenue for the government and therefore makes the property subject to seizure. See how easy that is? This power of the state is particularly alarming when one considers how politicized hostility towards particular religious groups or denominations can become. The leap from “You can’t say Merry Christmas because it offends me” to “The presence of your church offends me – let’s get rid of it” is not a big one. The church condemnations are happening now:
LONG BEACH, Calif. (BP)–City leaders in Long Beach, Calif., have classified the Filipino Baptist Fellowship’s building as a blighted area and are forcing the congregation out in order to make way for condominiums.
The path for the case was laid when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last summer in Kelo v. New London, Connecticut that a city’s use of eminent domain to transfer property from one private party to another may qualify as a “public use” protected by the Constitution.
John Eastman, director of The Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence who is defending the church, said the case -– the first involving a Baptist church — may play a key role in reversing the high court’s eminent domain decision.
“In my view, the Supreme Court made a terrible mistake in Kelo, and I think they know that and they’re going to be looking for a way to extricate [themselves] from that case,” Eastman told Baptist Press. “It seems to me that the best challenge to the principle of that case is a church case, where there is no economic output, so any economic development could then be utilized to take out the church under the Kelo theory.
Currently, there are eight other active cases of eminent domain abuse against churches across the country, according to the Institute for Justice, a civil liberties law firm in Arlington, Va. [Read more at (BP) News.]