America's Christian History

U.S. Constitution Page

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights from a Christian Perspective

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare

Rebuilders Publications Opportunities Contact Us

    Spotlight    


 Today in History   

 Poetry                 

 History                

 The Constitution   

 Principle Approach

 Politics                

 Home School       

 Creative Writing    


 Ask Dorothy...           

 Links                         

 Resources              

 Guest book  

Free Guestmap from Bravenet.com

 

Tell A Friend!

Type In Your Name:

Type In Your E-mail:

Your Friend's E-mail:

Your Comments:

Receive copy: 

EMINENT DOMAIN REDEFINED

An Editorial 

 

"No Trespassing! Private Property" lost all meaning when the Supreme Court ruled that businesses have the right to obtain private land that is in the best interest of the community.

For years eminent domain has been defined as the right of government to take private property for public use.  However, in their latest ruling the Supreme Court has opened up new risks of eminent domain misuse.  Instead of considering what's solely best for the public at large, governments can now also consider the option that generates the greatest tax revenues.

Not all the Supreme Court justices agreed with the ruling.  Justice O'Connor wrote, "The specter of condemnation (now) hangs over all property.  Nothing is (there) to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall or any farm with a factory."

Dana Berliner; a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice and author of a report titled "Public Rowel; Private Gain," recently uncovered more than 10,000 instances occurring over the past five years where private land was seized or threatened with seizure to be used for private development.  Berliner states, "This report is a wake-up call to all citizens.  Your property can be taken away by the unholy alliance of government and business interests. It is happening all over the country, and it can happen to you."1  (Can government and private property co-exist?)

Taking something from another without their consent is defined by God and John Locke as theft: "Thou shalt not steal" - whether it is by one or many.  At issue, also, in regard to eminent domain is the matter of why property is taken.  The idea behind eminent domain has always been that the whole body of the people would benefit from the property taken.  Civil bodies were the instruments to gain property for the use of the whole body of the people for their benefit.  The word "eminent" in the phrase "eminent domain" indicates that there is a power higher than the body of the people.  It is important to remember that those exercising their authority for the benefit of the people should keep clearly in mind, at the same time, that they were chosen into office for the purpose of protecting the citizen's property.

Everyone can and does use the highways and streets.  The "everyone" is the whole people as opposed to that which respects an individual.2  We frequently use the term "public" to express this.3

However that may be, the question is: how did those civil servants come to be higher than the people?  Notice they are civil servants.  In fact, I think you will agree with me that only God is a truly "eminent" person.  He does say He has "all power in heaven and in earth!"

Civil servants can only claim they are eminent in the sense that they were delegated by the whole people to act (as an eminent body) for the whole body: the "public" for the benefit of the whole.  They would do this, for instance, when a county road is needed.  We talked about the proper way to handle the matter of how a civil body could gain possession of private property for public use in our previous article.

You will notice that the word "use", a noun, is associated with the word "public"; that is: it is a phrase: "public use."  The phrase "public use" as it relates to eminent domain is defined by Black as: 

Public use. in constitutional provisions restricting the exercise of the right to take private property in virtue of eminent domain means a use concerning the whole community as distinguished from particular individuals. But each and every member of society need not be equally interested in such use or be personally and directly affected by it; if the object is to satisfy a great public want or exigency, that is sufficient ... but (it) Must be in common, and not for a particular individual.4  (Emphasis Ed.'s)

It is easy to see that the original reason/idea for the taking of property by eminent domain was for a public use.

Today the courts are telling folks that property may be taken for a public purpose.  How could that be used to do with property anything the taker desires?  How does that change the whole scenario?  Noah Webster tells us that the word purpose means: "That which a person sets before himself as an object to be reached or accomplished"....  This is quite a bit different from the noun "use".  The word "purpose" is not a synonym for the word "use"!  One cannot find such in any dictionary.  Here is a perfect example of the saying, "Ideas have consequences!"  Substituting "purpose" for the word "use" has turned eminent domain up-side-down.  In a recent article in the Sacramento Bee Columnist Dan Walters wrote:

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this summer that governments could seize homes and other property to facilitate private development projects, it touched off a political firestorm throughout the nation - including California - and fueled demands for new barriers to misuse of governmental "eminent domain" powers.

California's version of the debate centered on the aggressive use of eminent domain - or the threat to use it - by city redevelopment agencies to assemble land for hotels, auto malls, big box retailers and other projects.  Although California law says that redevelopment powers can be invoked only to combat "blight", local officials have been quite creative in their application of the term. And when the Supreme Court declared that "there is no basis for exempting economic development from our traditionally broad understanding of public purposes," it seemingly validated those aggressive redevelopment efforts.5  (bolding mine, Ed.)

Re-read the "purpose" for instituting eminent domain: "for hotels, auto malls, big box retailers and other projects."  What do you call these?  Don't we ordinarily refer to them as "private enterprise"?  Those few words in the Columnist's Dan Walters warning article points up the problem: the difference between "public" and "private".

What is now the process by which property is being taken as "defined" by the supreme court?  Condemnation! - A process that means there is something seriously wrong with the property which gives civil servants the "right" to take property from one owner and give it to another individual, company or corporation for a different "purpose"!  Your home could be condemned under this process, you would be given whatever was determined a reasonable price, and the property sold and replaced "with a shopping mall or ... a factory" or "a Motel 6 (replaced) with a Ritz-Carlton."  No one reading this thinks this is honest!  No one thinks eminent domain was meant to do this!

We have not finished, however.  What is used to carry out this process of condemnation?   Blight!  Yes, blight.

If you are a gardener, you have heard of "blight."  What does that have to do with the subject at hand?  (Read Columnist Walters article again.)  Can it be used, has it been used "creatively" to take that which is not legal or moral to take?  It is being used as a ruse to obtain property.  Those claiming eminent domain condemn a piece of private property (yours?)  because of "blight", pay the going rate, redistrict it, sell it for redevelopment or to a private company, corporation, or developer for a "public purpose"!  (Whatever that means.)

But what is "blight"?  The word "blight" is used in the dictionary only of plants, so we went to the Thesaurus and found the following synonyms: Blight, decay, dilapidation, ravages of time, wear and tear, corrosion, erosion, moldiness, rottenness, moth and rust, dry rot.  Could your house have some of this?

Could an inspector find some or all of the above if he needs it to determine that ones property fits his definition of a "blighted" piece of property!  Could your home be condemned and sold for a hotel or super-market or.....?  Don't let him in your house!

Better yet: become better acquainted with your Constitution and Bill of Rights and start working on or with your elected representatives.  Didn't you elect them to represent you and protect your property?

Bill of Rights: Article IV:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.  

Bill of Rights: Article V:

No person shall...be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.

Article I, Sec. I, California Constitution. (How does your state say this?)

"All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights.   Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy."

We call a tyrant the leader whose only law is that of his own whim, who expropriates the property of his subjects, and then drafts them to go take that of their neighbors. -- Voltaire, "Tyrannie", Dictionnaire Philosophique, 1764.

Did our Founders understand how our property must be protected?  Get "You and the Bill of Rights" study manual described on this web site for a broader understanding of that document.  Read what presidential candidate, Mr. Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus, said of it.


Footnotes:

1. Quoted from Business Reform magazine(Back to article)

2. PUBLIC, a. [L.publicus, from the root of populus, people; that is, people-like.]  1. Pertaining to a nation, state or community; extending to a whole people;...  Thus we say,... public good, public calamity, public service, public property.  (Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language)  (Back to article)

3. Public, adj. Common to all or many; general, open to common use.  Belonging to the people at large; relating to or affecting the whole people of a state, nation, or community; not limited or restricted to any particular class of the community.  Peacock v. Retail Credit Co., D.C. Ga., 32 F. Supp. 44418, 423.3 Black's Law Dictionary p. 1227.  (Back to article)

4. Black's Law Dictionary p. 1232.  (Back to article)

5. "Eminent Domain Bills Are Stalled - except one for casino tribe" from the Sacramento Bee web site, 09-16-05.  (Back to article)


Post a Review

Want to comment on this article?  We value your input

Please send us your comments and if you wish, a link to your site or a link to another page that supports your views and we'll post your valued input here. 

Online Review Form
Enter  your name

Enter the article  you want to review

Enter your E-mail address

Rate it: 5 Stars is the Highest Rating:
1


 

 

 


Home

NEW

Correspondence Course

The Bill of Rights

You and the Bill of Rights

Teusy - The little mouse that almost missed the ark

Teusy


The Governor's Story
The Governor's Story

The constitution
You, Your Child and the Constitution


Inspirational Literature

The Siege of Shah Island

 

Heartwarming Poetry

Where is Beauty

 

The Pilgrims

How The Pilgrims Came

 

Grammar

A Guide to Teaching Grammar using the Principle Approach

 

With Liberty and Justice for All

 

Creative Writing

Creative Writing and the Essay

 

 

Copyright 2006 Rebuilders of the Foundations of America's Christian History