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Last Week:
History Repeats Itself
Time and Time Again

Header Graphic of Bill Sargent, Mark Mansius, and John Gay, the Three Musketeers

Next Week:
Strict Enforcement is better
than New Laws

Government Verses
Private Property Rights

[A City of Houston Example]

September 7, 2015

Houston passed an ordinance allowing people to decide for themselves whether to use the men’s/women’s public bathrooms.  Then last summer  -- in an attempt to silence increased opposition -- Houston’s  Mayor issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over sermons dealing with gender identity.  An uproar from Houston citizens forced the City to reconsider, eventually withdrawing the subpoenas. In an attempt to fight back against the bullying tactics of City Hall, the voters will finally be able to weigh in this November.

Now the Houston City government is finding itself in yet another controversial battle with religion. This time the city seeks to “take” church property from two successful black churches to build an apartment complex, library, and private for profit medical business.  Over many years, the Latter Day and First Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist churches have successfully helped change this crime ridden area.  But the City claims it needs all of the land for its development.  

In our nation’s beliefs, rights of ownership predate government. James Madison, the writer of the “takings” clause in the 5th amendment, wrote, “As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.” Samuel Adams added, “Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can.

Rather than being mire deductions, these are the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature.  They took seriously limiting governments’ powers “to take” requiring the process to include due process, just compensation, and public use.

The term “taking” refers to government powers of eminent domain, or transferring ownership, even against the owner’s will, of private property for public use.  The fundamental reasoning for limiting governmental confiscation was “designed to bar Government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole.”

Over the years, the Court constantly wrote to redefine the meaning of public taking. In 2005, the controversial 5-4 Kelo decision opened the door for essentially “takings” for private use. It stated that government cannot take for private use, but then defined public use broadly “that where a government presents a "comprehensive development plan" with “public benefits” that are not merely “incidental or pretextual,”  this constitutes a public use.  The churches legal defense depends upon challenging “Kelo.”

We strongly support the rights of private ownership and the rights to use and enjoy private property without undo governmental interference and “taking.”  We disagree with Houston’s decision to “take” these properties -- especially considering the churches’ long history of success of improving their community and therefore removing need for governmental assistance. Perhaps the most effective action would be for the citizens of Houston and Harris County to once again respectfully cry foul loudly against their government. We encourage them to do so.  

Mark, Bill and John

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