Taking Away Your Church Building


Church ruins The issue of the use of eminent domain for seizing property is looming larger for churches. Couple this with a reluctance of many localities to allow a church building to be built because it means a loss in tax revenue that could have been generated by a similar retail property, and you have a big problem not enough of us are talking about.

WORLD magazine’s blog made note of this recently with a link to the The CSM (not a source I usually link to, obviously, but the article is right on). The response on the blog to the article has been that “house churches don’t have this issue.” Well, I wouldn’t be too sure that truly flimsy eminent domain can’t be used against a house church after President Clinton’s shock-inducing Executive Order 13112 (which is conveniently “offline” at the National Archives) that basically gives the government the right to use eminent domain to seize property that has been taken over by “invasive species.”

What is insidious about EO 13112 is that our entire country is swarming with non-native species. You have a flock of starlings (European) in your backyard? The government can seize your property citing EO 13112. Got any honeysuckle (Japanese) growing in your yard? The government can seize your property under 13112. Truth is, this can be cited down to even the microbial level, so no one’s “house church” is ultimately safe under this EO. To make matters worse, President Bush—rather than responsibly rescinding it—amended EO 13112 with EO 13286 which gives the Department of Homeland Security the right to seize land based on “invasive species.”

Now I am not a conspiracy buff, by any means, but we Christians should be sobered by this trend to block church buildings and to use eminent domain to seize church properties. (Though, I am one who believes that churches today should be less concerned with building since churches may lose tax-exempt status in my lifetime. Having an expensive property is one way to bankrupt a church with property taxes.) We need to not be asleep on this battle. We may lose it sooner than we think if we are not diligent.

{Update 2/22/05}

The Supreme Court just stuck a knife in the back of property owners in the Kelo case and has set a very scary precedent for allowing the government to seize property for no real reason at all.