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Can eminent domain target a church?

On Behalf of | Apr 13, 2022 | Real Estate Disputes |

When the government needs to use property for a public work, such as the construction of a highway or a railway system, they can take that property through eminent domain.  They do have to give the property owner fair market value for the property, but this can still be a controversial process because many property owners simply don’t want to lose the real estate that they own, even for a value that is deemed to be fair.

Eminent domain proceedings focus primarily on residential or for profit commercial properties.  But what about a religious institution?  Can eminent domain focus on your church or another religious center?  Or does the separation of church and state give these religious buildings more protection from government actions?

Religious institutions are not exempt

The government can use its eminent domain power on religious institutions, such as churches or other nonprofits.  These are not exempt from the process, though it is true that they would still need to be paid fair market value for the property.  This could make it far more expensive for the government to take a church’s property than to take nearby homes or other smaller lots.  It all depends on the project that is being undertaken and how crucial it is to have that specific location.

Those who have studied these trends have found that churches are less likely to be targeted than residences, and cost could be a big part of it.  But they also point to the fact that community resistance levels tend to be higher.  People are never thrilled about eminent domain, and they may not like the fact that those around them are losing their homes or businesses, but they’re more likely to speak up as a group when a church is the focus of the action.  So, while it is certainly possible for the government to do this, it’s also true that it is more rare than using eminent domain on other properties.

What options do you have?

If you are facing eminent domain, it’s important to understand the process and the necessary compensation.  You also need to know what legal options you have.


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