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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Name:
Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Knock-Knock-Knockin' on the Church's Door

[This column by Jerry Falwell is from Falwell.com.]

I learned this week that a small Baptist church in Oklahoma is at risk of losing its place of worship because it sits on a site where city leaders want to build a shopping plaza.

This eminent domain business is getting serious.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo ruling last year, we are facing a brand new ballgame in terms of private property and what that term really means.

For the Rev. Roosevelt Gildon, pastor of the Centennial Baptist Church in Sand Springs, Okla., eminent domain is threatening to tear his church apart.

I’ve never met Rev. Gildon — or “Rosey,” as his friends call him — but as a pastor of nearly 50 years, I can imagine the feeling of helplessness this man must be feeling. He’s been leading the flock for seven years at the church. And now the congregation is looking to their shepherd for answers, with government officials threatening to take the church property.

Government officials in Sand Springs have told Rev. Gildon they will be seizing the church property in order to build a “super center.”

This is an alarming development, one that should send shivers down the spine of any pastor reading this column.

In the Kelo case, a group of Connecticut homeowners chose not to accept a corporation’s offers so that a business area could be developed. So the city council authorized the corporation to acquire properties within the designated area. When homeowners refused the offers, the development corporation voted to use eminent domain to acquire the properties, even though the owners were averse to selling.

Following a trial, the case was appealed to the state supreme court, which determined that the use of eminent domain for economic development doesn’t violate public use clauses of the state and federal constitutions. Appeals failed to protect the rights of the property owners.

We are now seeing that “economic development” is more powerful than personal property rights — or church rights, in the case of Centennial Baptist Church.

In a National Review Online (nationalreview.com) article titled “Unholy Land Grab,” Heather Wilhelm reported that this church property takeover is unnecessary.

“The way things are now, Centennial Baptist Church could easily live side-by-side with new stores, houses, or businesses,” Ms. Wilhelm wrote. “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.”

She also reported that Centennial is not run down; in fact, she reports that the building is like new and fully functional. So this isn’t a case of city officials getting rid of a dilapidated old church.

Rev. Gildon has now coalesced with Americans for Limited Government and Oklahomans in Action to fight the takeover bid of his church.

I’m no lawyer, but maybe the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act or 2000 (RLUIPA) can provide protections for Rev. Gildon’s church. RLUIPA is a federal statute that provides stronger protection for religious freedom in terms of land use. The statute has been beneficial in halting discriminatory zoning laws that target churches across the nation.

In the meantime, my prayers are with Rev. Gildon and his congregation. They should be afforded the right to remain at their present location so that they can serve God and fully minister to their community. Let the money-hungry corporate big boys either build around the church or move on to another locale.

5 Comments:

Blogger BonnieBlueFlag said...

I knew the churches would be among the first to be hit with this eminent domain nonsense, because they are not paying the taxes that someone, anyone would pay in their place.

Entire neighborhoods have grown up around the churches, now they will want to get rid of the heart of the communities.

Fri Jan 27, 05:43:00 PM CST  
Blogger Timothy Birdnow said...

This is going to get worse before it gets better.

I agree with Bonnie; churches will be the first to go, and this will lead to an inevitable slide in the commmunity-which will lead to more eminent domain takings. There`ll be a dominoe effect in communities which exercise this usurpation.

Government has been chipping away at property rights for decades. How much longer can we call property ``private``?

Tue Feb 28, 07:12:00 AM CST  
Blogger Geo said...

Frankly, though I don't think eminent domain is aimed specially at churches, I do think it's time that we begin to tax churches just like anybody if they are going to continue to be political entities. They are surrendering their right to be protected when they have voting parties in church basements where religious politicos go down the ballot and tell church members how to vote.

Currently in the State of Washington one church group actually owns the businesses, auto, trucks and homes of its members so that no church member pays any real estate taxes and etcetera. Then their tax free businesses go out and bid on jobs that solid tax paying businesses also must bid on at a considerable disadvantage.

But, then, I'm also an atheist and think to hell with anyone who'd be silly enough to believe in a grand invisible king in the sky. It's so magic thinking and about the intellectual level of an 11 year old.

Wed Apr 05, 10:36:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Timothy Birdnow said...

Geo, political entities are tax free (or even tax subsidized) all of the time. Consider some of the Charities which have tax-exempt status; Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Urban League, The National Organization for Women (NOW), even the North American Man-Boy Love Association (a group which advocates homosexual pedophilia) had tax-exempt status until the late `90`s. Begrudging Churches, which perform numerous acts of charity and act as stabilizing elements in the community, is extraordinarily petty.

The goal should be to make most things tax-exempt, not the other way around. Liberty is not defined by spreading despotism, and fairness is not defined by shafting everyone equally.

As to your comments on atheism and belief, history is solidly against your views. Most of the great scholars and thinkers throughout history have believed in God. (Albert Einstein was certainly no 11 year old thinker, nor was Newton, Boyle, Kepler, Pasteur, Salk...)In fact, science was invented by Christian scholars as a way of knowing God; before the Church you had philosophy, but no established scientific system.

By your view, America is a childish Nation because most of the Founding Fathers foolishly believed in God, and incorporated Biblical principles into the American system.

If you don`t personally believe in the existence of God, that is your right and choice. It is grossly unfair of you to denigrate those who do-especially when we who do believe are in such fine intellectual company.

Sat Apr 08, 08:41:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Timothy Birdnow said...

Geo, political entities are tax free (or even tax subsidized) all of the time. Consider some of the Charities which have tax-exempt status; Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Urban League, The National Organization for Women (NOW), even the North American Man-Boy Love Association (a group which advocates homosexual pedophilia) had tax-exempt status until the late `90`s. Begrudging Churches, which perform numerous acts of charity and act as stabilizing elements in the community, is extraordinarily petty.

The goal should be to make most things tax-exempt, not the other way around. Liberty is not defined by spreading despotism, and fairness is not defined by shafting everyone equally.

As to your comments on atheism and belief, history is solidly against your views. Most of the great scholars and thinkers throughout history have believed in God. (Albert Einstein was certainly no 11 year old thinker, nor was Newton, Boyle, Kepler, Pasteur, Salk...)In fact, science was invented by Christian scholars as a way of knowing God; before the Church you had philosophy, but no established scientific system.

By your view, America is a childish Nation because most of the Founding Fathers foolishly believed in God, and incorporated Biblical principles into the American system.

If you don`t personally believe in the existence of God, that is your right and choice. It is grossly unfair of you to denigrate those who do-especially when we who do believe are in such fine intellectual company.

Sat Apr 08, 08:41:00 AM CDT  

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