In Jersey City, a parochial school would like to lengthen their football field so it can be long enough to meet official football field length requirements. Where the field currently ends, a Chang Terry Tans bar property begins. St. Peters Prep school offered to buy the property from Mr. Tan, but he wasnt satisfied with their offer. So they went to the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency and persuaded them to use eminent domain to take the property from Mr. Tan.
In an article published by the North Country Gazette, Mr. Tan commented,
"I've been a business owner here for over 18 years," said Tan, the owner of The Golden Cicada on Grand Street. "I've worked hard and become part of the community. Now, the government is taking my property from me for no other purpose than to provide land for a private school's football field that the general public has no right to enjoy the use of."
The article explains,
Eminent domain is a legal doctrine that allows the state to appropriate private property for its own use without the owner's consent. Governments most commonly use the power of eminent domain when the acquisition of real property is necessary for the completion of a public project such as a road, and the owner of the required property is unwilling to negotiate a price for its sale.
The problem is, the city is using eminent domain, not for the public good, but to aid a private, religious organization. This has drawn the ACLU into the fray. The Gazetter reports,
Tan and the ACLU of New Jersey contend that the government is illegally using taxpayer dollars to fund a particular religious institution by re-zoning the area and taking his land in order to aid St. Peter's Prep. Under both the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution and the "No-Preference" Clause of the New Jersey Constitution, a governmental entity such as the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency cannot act with the primary intent to aid a particular religious entity. Likewise, its actions cannot have the primary effect of aiding one religion over another or preferring religion over non-religion.
"Government is not allowed to invoke its power in order to benefit a particular religious organization," said Ronald Chen of Rutgers Law School-Newark's Constitutional Litigation Clinic. "Here, the power of eminent domain is being used to specifically benefit an institution that promotes a particular religious faith." Chen, along with Michael Kates of Nashel Kates Nussman Rapone & Ellis in Hackensack, are the ACLU of New Jersey's volunteer cooperating attorneys representing Tan.In last year's Supreme Court case, Kelo v. City of New London, the city in question successfully argued that the increased tax revenue that would result from the taking met the "public use" standard. However, in the present case, the city will actually lose tax revenue if the land is given to St. Peter's Prep since, as a religious institution, it pays no taxes on the land it owns.
Well soon know how this is playing out. A hearing for the case, Jersey City Redevelopment Agency v. Cheng Tan, et al.,will be held November 4th,. By the time it reaches the supreme court, if Alito is approved, its a pretty sure bet the church will win the case and successfully steal the property. This is just the beginning of the horror stories we can expect to see unfold in the decades ahead if Alito, or any extremist conservative judicial activist who is pro-corporation and anti- separation of church and state is confirmed in the supreme court.
Imagine every business property a local church doesnt approve of being stolen through the use of eminent domain claims as a ploy to shut down the business. Imagine megachurches, with strong local political influence forcing the condemnation of desirable properties, so they are sold at bargain basement prices for the purpose of building bigger churches with more coffee houses, movie theaters, etc. Imagine a real estate developer who wants to build a casino or high rise. Forget about little old ladies who spent their whole lives, or whose family lived in the same house for generations. These bullies will be able to throw the owners out and steal the properties for pennies on the dollar, compared to what they are worth to the owner.
Suddenly these horror stories are not so fantastic. They are ominous, dangerous likely to occur situations.
Tell your senator and your local paper to Oppose the Alito Nomination