David Beito has an update on the connection between eminent domain and civil rights, specifically in Alabama. The city of Birmingham decided it wanted the property of the Evergreen Baptist Church, whose congregation had met there for 100 years. With no other choice, the church agreed to a land swap. The congregation is now facing bankruptcy because the property the city gave them required additional infrastructure.
It seems like the city of Birmingham has it exactly backwards in this situation. Most property owners would be lucky if their municipality, once it forcibly took property under the threat of eminent domain, is willing to exchange land. However, the city later decided that the land they gave to the church required a new water main. Instead of paying for what one would think would be a public utility, the city of Birmingham charged the church for the installation.
Beito has linked a YouTube video of the church’s pastor, Rev. John E. Smith, and his wife testifying last month before the Alabama Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on the plight of his church.