A Christian values and religious freedom advocacy group is urging pastors, their congregants, and others in Idaho to support a petition drive to protect churches and church members' private property from eminent domain abuses.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Kelo v. City of New London, Connecticut, et al. that the Constitution of the United States does not prevent government officials from condemning churches and private homes under eminent domain and seizing the property for commercial development projects.
However, individual states can pass laws prohibiting abuses of "eminent domain" and of the government's condemnation powers. The Kelo decision has prompted citizen activists in a number of U.S. states to push for such protections and to urge their lawmakers to move on enacting the necessary legislation.
Pastor Bryan Fischer is executive director of the Idaho Values Alliance. He says a petition drive has been initiated in an effort to put on the November ballot a proposed state law that would protect individuals and churches from entities seeking to exploit eminent domain to take their property. The proposal would prohibit local governments from condemning churches, homes, or businesses for private development projects.
"Any church in America can be vulnerable to eminent domain abuse," Fischer observes. "In fact," he notes, "the more attractive the location of a church is, the more vulnerable it is to abuse because greedy local governments can look at the best locations as prime spots for commercial development."
The Idaho Values Alliance spokesman believes the Kelo decision placed the free-speech rights of religious individuals and institutions at stake. "The motivation seems to be clear," he notes. "Churches generate no property tax revenue for local governments, and businesses do; so it's made churches especially vulnerable to eminent domain abuse."
Organizers must gather 70,000 signatures by April 30. Fischer is mobilizing an army of volunteers to gather the needed signatures by the deadline in order to get the proposed law on Idaho's November ballot.
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