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Susette Kelo owns a house that she doesn’t want to sell. You would think that if she doesn’t want to sell something, she shouldn’t have to. The Constitution’s Fifth Amendment gives the power of “eminent domain” to governments. This allows governments to seize property as long as “just compensation” is given and the property will be put to “public use.” Historically, public use has meant railroads, roads, bridges, government buildings, airports, and parks. But there’s a new definition of eminent domain making its way through the courts. If it’s determined that someone’s land can be put to better use than its present use—so it can generate jobs and taxes for the community—then eminent domain applies.
What good is clear wording in the Constitution—a national contract with the people—if it can be overruled by judicial fiat? What am I thinking? Why is anyone surprised that this issue is being debated. The courts are notorious constitutional usurpers. It wasn’t too long ago that seven justices found the constitutional right for a mother to kill her pre-born baby in the “penumbra” (shadows) of the document that defines our nation. What significance does land hold if life itself is so cheap and inconsequential?
So why don’t more people protest the abuse of eminent domain? The seizures are advertised as a benefit to society. The public will gain something from the forfeiture—more jobs and a larger tax base for better schools. We’re comfortable having people pay for other peoples’ stuff, so why not in this case? What’s the big deal? We tax everybody to pay for education, so why not take somebody’s property to create jobs? People are outraged when you suggest that taxing property taxes for educational purposes is unjust. Of course, they do. They’re reaping the benefit of an education for their children at a reduced cost. As I mentioned in a previous article, most Americans consider it a “civic duty” to have a portion of every land owner’s property taxed to pay for other people’s stuff.
We’re experiencing the domino effect of a reversal of sovereignty from God to the State, our new God. Israel transferred absolute sovereignty from God to an earthly dependent and subordinate sovereign king and suffered the consequences: “And he [king Saul] will take the best of your fields and your vineyards, and your olive groves and give them to his servants” (1 Sam. 8:14).
As the period of oppression increases, the governing powers take property by force, claiming a divine right. Since we are an officially atheistic society, we do it in the name of the “public good.” The claim of absolute sovereignty by Jezebel over Naboth’s vineyard is the classic case of the usurpation of God’s sovereign claim over property. Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard and offered him a “better vineyard” (1 Kings 21:2, 6). Naboth refused the king’s offer as he had every right to do because he saw his land as an inheritance that he desired to keep in his family: “The LORD forbid me that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers” (v. 3). For Naboth, possession of the land meant a stake in the future. He was dominion?]minded. Giving up his land to despotic rulers meant giving up the future and present liberty.
Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, would not take no for an answer. She chided her husband: “Do you now reign over Israel? Arise, eat bread, and let your heart be joyful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite” (v. 7). Jezebel claimed for herself and the king what belonged to God alone: “I will give you [Ahab] the vineyard.” Jezebel was a one-woman Supreme Court. A plot was manufactured to confiscate Naboth’s land. Eventually he was murdered because he would not cooperate (vv. 8–16). The just end of these tyrants is established through the mouth of the prophet Elijah: “Thus says the LORD, ‘Have you murdered, and also taken possession?’… Thus says the LORD, ‘In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth the dogs shall lick up your blood, even yours’” (1 Kings 21:19; cf. 1 Kings 22:38).
When the people lose their land, they lose the future, and dominion is curtailed, and the State is empowered. The people looking for job relief see the immediate benefits to them and their community, but once the precedent is set, no one’s property is safe.