Tulsa Religious Leaders Discuss Property Rights And Eminent Domain

Saturday, September 30th 2006, 7:14 pm
By: News On 6

The 'Protect our Homes and Churches Coalition' held a meeting Saturday morning to outline the options churches have if the government decides to take its property. Area pastors at the meeting say eminent domain is a threat to their communities, and the best way to fight it is to stand together.

Pastor Roosevelt Gildon has some first-hand experience with eminent domain. His Centennial Baptist Church in Sand Springs has been battling the city over a redevelopment plan to clear the church and other occupants from a downtown district.
"They've leveled off the ground over there, they've leveled off homes, you can not even tell there was a community there."

Centennial Baptist is still standing though. Pastor Gildon shared his experience with other Tulsa religious leaders during a 'Protect our Homes and Churches coalition meeting at Mount Zion Baptist Church.

The group held the meeting in hopes of expanding its membership.

Activist Pat Highland: "folks that are here joining us today, they have experienced similar issues, this is a real grass roots movement.

Coalition members worry that since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of developers last summer, churches are more vulnerable to cities wishing to seize their property for economic development. By sharing experiences and explaining property rights, the group hopes other pastors will be able to stand up against developers and the government.

Pastor Roosevelt Gildon: "what I’m trying to do, since the battle really started here, is to draw the pastors together, educate them, let them know what's going on with the eminent domain abuse."

And coalition members say unity among religious leaders is the best way to prevent that abuse. Pastor Roosevelt Gildon: "when you start unifying groups, and have people that know laws and know the ins and outs of what's going on, it helps you to be able to stand."

Organizers say the meeting went well, and all the pastors in attendance did join the Protect Our Homes and Churches Coalition. Earlier this year, an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling did make it more difficult to seize churches and other properties through eminent domain. The court ruled that economic development alone does not justify the use of eminent domain.