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Attorney on New Law: The Gov't Giveth, the Gov't Taketh Away

  • Allie Martin Agape Press
  • 2005 27 Jun
Attorney on New Law: The Gov't Giveth, the Gov't Taketh Away

June 27, 2005

An attorney with a Christian legal group says last week's ruling by the Supreme Court allowing cities to seize property for private development sends a dangerous message.

Kelo v. The City of New London pitted private homeowners in Connecticut against the city and a group of commercial developers seeking to erect an office complex, riverfront hotel, and other commercial enterprises.  In a sharply divided 5-4 decision, the high court ruled that a city's need for greater tax revenue was sufficient public purpose to justify the takings -- essentially telling local governments they may seize private homes under the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment for use in private development.

In a dissenting statement, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said it is beyond the power of the government to take private property from one citizen and give it to another.  She wrote that "Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner" if it is deemed more beneficial to the public.

Steve Crampton is chief counsel with the American Family Association's Center for Law & Policy.  Crampton says there are many problems with the ruling.  "I think it reflects a remarkably poor assessment and appreciation for one of the cornerstones on which our nation was founded -- namely, the protection of private property," he says.

He predicts the fallout from the decision will be widespread.  "It is an amorphous concept," Crampton says.  "And in these days when virtually every state in the nation is struggling to balance its own budget, this presents basically a blank check [for local governments] to go out and do what [they] need to with private property in order to bring in the public funds."

The high court, he says, "no longer respects" private property.  "There is a world of difference between taking private property for a legitimate public use, such as the building of a road, and some private developer's get-rich-quick scheme," he says.  "In effect, the Supreme Court has written over City Hall: 'The government giveth, and the government taketh away.'"

According to Crampton, the only remaining remedy for citizens wishing to protect their private property will be the ballot box for local and state elections.


AFA Center for Law & Policy (

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