Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Church of St. Kelo

Remember that "landmark" Supreme Court decision last summer that got the conservative talk show hosts and bloggers all in an uproar? The one where they expanded the rights of big government to use "eminent domain" to take the property of homeowners for practically any reason under the sun?

I seem to recall that the politicians were so quick to say this was a "special circumstance," and would never be used to seize private property unjustly. Guess what?
Since the Supreme Court's controversial Kelo decision last summer, eminent domain has entered a new frontier. It’s not just grandma’s house we have to worry about. Now it’s God’s house, too. “I guess saving souls isn’t as important,” says Reverend Gildon, his voice wry, “as raking in money for politicians to spend.” The town of Sand Springs, Oklahoma, has plans to take Centennial Baptist — along with two other churches, several businesses, dozens of small homes, and a school — and replace them with a new “super center,” rumored to include a Home Depot. It’s the kind of stuff that makes tax collectors salivate. It’s also the kind of project that brakes for no one, especially post-Kelo. “I had no idea this could happen in America,” says Reverend Gildon, after spending Monday morning marching in the Sand Springs Martin Luther King Day parade.
Reverend Gildon is a practical man. He’s not a firebrand, and he’s not looking for a fight. He just loves God and loves his church, and wants to continue serving his community. Unfortunately, local officials would rather have an extra parking lot for a new Bed Bath & Beyond.

It makes sense on one level. Churches don’t generate any tax revenue for the government to spend. They don’t “stimulate” the economy. They often, much to their peril, occupy prime, envied real estate. With the supercharged powers granted by Kelo, be very, very afraid.

What’s most egregious about this application of eminent domain is that there’s already plenty of room for development, even if the pesky church sticks around. Many community residents were happy to sell their property. Two other churches in the area decided to move to Tulsa. Other structures in the area were dilapidated and ready for the deal. The way things are now, Centennial Baptist Church could easily live side-by-side with new stores, houses, or businesses. Yet Centennial remains in the crosshairs -- even though two nearby national chains, a taxpaying McDonald’s and a taxpaying O’Reilly’s muffler shop, have been left alone.

1 Comments:

Blogger Songbird said...

For another version of this post and some good discussion, see my cross-post at Lone Star Times.

1/23/2006 3:12 PM  

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