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.

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  • victor

    Yeah, and who’s to say that they don’t actually find some graves on those six acres? I mean, assuming they don’t have to turn the property over to the state right away, there should be plenty of time to do some relocating of the cemetary’s current residents. I mean, this IS New Jersey we’re talking about here, right?

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    “You moved the headstones, but you DIDN’T MOVE THE BODIES!”

  • Gary Beckwith

    I think about this a lot. We don’t seem to care about the young or the old anymore (that includes the dead) A few weeks ago, in one news day I read about woman who was robbed, and they shot her baby dead in the carriage and then read about an 89 year old woman who was carjacked and locked in the trunk of her car for 2 days while they drove her car around, then they dumped her in a cemetery. It was like getting hit from both ends.

  • victor

    Go into the light…there is peace and serenity in the light.