Fla. judge OKs seizing church to build stadium; Judge Napolitano cries foul

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George Skene, Orlando Sentinel

A ruling clearing the City of Orlando to seize a church for the purpose of building a stadium is gaining national attention, with Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew P. Napolitano questioning the constitutionality of the decision.

Circuit Judge Patricia Doherty ruled Friday that a new Major League Soccer stadium serves the interests of the public and the city has the right to take the property of the small African-American church Faith Deliverance Temple, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

During an appearance on “Fox & Friends,” Napolitano shaped the issue as a matter of whether the government’s claim on a property outweighs freedom of religion.

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“I must tell you that in the years that I’ve been studying the Constitution and teaching it, and lecturing on it and doing my best to explain it, I have never seen this conflict; the right to free expression of religion versus the right of the state to condemn real estate and then sell it to somebody else,” Napolitano said Tuesday.

“This right of free expression of religion is not only a natural right that we all have, it’s expressly guaranteed in the Constitution. One would think they could look elsewhere for the parking lot adjacent to the stadium, rather than to destroy a church,” he added.

The next step is for the city and the owners of the church to agree on a fair price for the property, and they are not even close, according to Fox News:

The city initially offered $1.5 million, saying it was more than double the appraised value. But church officials asked for $35 million, estimating that as the cost of relocating and building a new church.

“Now think of this,” Napolitano told host Steve Doocy. “The government could trample as many churches as it wants, if is has the cash with which to do so under this bizarre theory of this judge in Florida.”

Tom Tillison

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