Eminent domain

Eminent domain

I’ve never been all that comfortable with the concept of taking private property by eminent domain, because it seems to be ripe for abuse. Case in point: The Dallas school district wants to take land owned by the Catholic diocese by eminent domain for building schools. The land is adjacent to a current cemetery and is slated for cemetery expansion. Another property is an apartment complex with about 200 units occupied.

The problem with the latter is that while the owner of the apartment complex will receive fair market value for the property, what happens to all the renters who will be displaced? What if they can’t find good, affordable housing in an equivalent area? They’re tossed out into the cold. Even if the district finds them new places to live, what about the stress and expense of moving?

As for the Catholic land, this one strikes me as a separation of church and state issue. You see, when Christians try to express their faith in public, we are told to be quiet and that our faith has no place in the public square. On the other hand, when they need our property—property that is used for religious purposes, in this case Christian burial, that’s different. Again we must shut up, sit down, and hand it over. For one thing, although the diocese will receive market value for the land, it will not be able to open a new cemetery within the city limits because city ordinance prohibits it. So where will local Catholic be allowed to bury their loved ones? An hour and a half drive away?

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli

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