Government Grabs Church Land for Road Project

Not far from where I live, the Diocese of Camden (New Jersey) just lost 6 acres from one of their cemeteries in a government land grab under eminent domain, and for far less than the asking price or the assessment:

New Jersey invoked eminent domain to grab the land for a highway project, and offered the Catholic diocese in Camden $1.9 million, even though church officials say the 6-acre parcel is worth ten times that figure. The land, part of a cemetery but containing no graves, will go to an extensive road-widening project after the state’s Supreme Court declined to hear the church’s appeal. Diocese officials claim the state low-balled them.

“We are disappointed by the state’s approach,” Diocese of Camden spokesman Peter Feuerherd told

Church officials had asked for $19.4 million for the tract at New St. Mary’s Cemetery in Bellmawr, basing its estimate on the value of the land and the cost of relocating graves whose “tranquility” might be disturbed by the roadwork. But the state Department of Transportation used a 2007 appraisal of the land, even ignoring a subsequent valuation of $3.5 million, Feuerherd said.

Almost 40,000 people are buried there, and families are upset:

“This whole thing has been traumatic,” said Basil Albadri, a Haddon Township man whose wife, Roxann, died of breast cancer in 2008 and is interred in the cemetery’s 7,015-crypt mausoleum.

Just months after his wife passed away, Albadri, 51, received a letter inviting him to an NJDOT meeting in Bellmawr to discuss the interchange’s impact on the 50-acre cemetery. The letter was scant on details but floored the family, conjuring up images of second funerals.

“We were hysterical,” said Susan Czere, Albadri’s sister-in-law.

NJDOT’s proposed remedy would create an elevated flyover that would come within 20 feet of the mausoleum’s nearest corner, according to an attorney for the Camden Diocese, which operates the cemetery.

Although the idea of “eminent domain” has deep roots in English common law, it’s never been without controversy and it is routinely abused, particularly in the wake of the Supreme Court’s notorious Kelo decision. This is simply theft-by-government, and no free society should tolerate it. Respect for private property, respect for families, respect for the Church: all things lost in modern America.

And most of all, a civilization that doesn’t respect the dead is a civilization with no past, and thus no future.

Related: Tobit, And Tamerlan