How dare those horrible capitalists run their natural gas pipelines over poor, innocent nuns?
Is there no greater group of adult sweetness, innocence and potential victimhood than nuns?
It’s Huns versus Nuns!
The Adorers of the Blood of Christ, a name whose hardline name ranks right up there with legendary DJ Don Imus’ “First Church of the Gooey Death,” are 2,000 worldwide nuns dedicated to saving earth’s natural environment from over development and energy production.
As reported by The Washington Post, when a surveyor stopped by from the company planning to build the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, the Williams Companies, the nuns would not even talk with him.
That’s when the company reached out to the nuns to negotiate a different route for the pipeline.
Pipelines do not fit in with their “land ethic” anywhere on property they own. And they own a lot of it in the region where this pipeline would bring affordable gas energy to a huge part of the country.
This Atlantic Sunrise pipeline would hook up with the company’s Transco pipeline, which carries gas north from the Gulf of Mexico to the East Coast, to transport Pennsylvania gas to other states. Only Texas is producing as much natural gas as Pennsylvania.
Still, the nuns will not negotiate.
In fact, they worked out a scheme to test their religious freedoms in court.
They put up an arch and a couple of wooden benches in a field where the pipeline would travel and called it their chapel, arguing that the pipeline would violate their religious freedom.
“FERC’s decision to force the Adorers to use land they own to accommodate a fossil fuel pipeline is antithetical to the deeply held religious beliefs and convictions of the Adorers. It places a substantial burden on the Adorers’ exercise of religion,’ the nuns’ attorneys point out.
The Washington Post reported that another federal law, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, could do more to protect the nuns, depending on a judge’s interpretation. As the Post reported, the law seeks to shield religious institutions from land-use laws that would otherwise impose a substantial burden on their religious exercise.
“But the nation’s appellate courts have offered differing opinions on whether the law applies to eminent domain,” the Post reported. “The 3rd Circuit, where the Adorers are located, has never ruled on that question.”
Would the court consider the fact that this religious order’s land ethic never existed before 2005 and how that might play into their pipeline protest strategy?
Would the court consider the fact that eminent domain is for public use (not just public benefit), and while roads and transmission lines are constitutionally accepted, pipelines must also be accepted in order to bring affordable energy to as many people as possible?
And how might the pipeline impose a burden on their exercise of religion when they sure didn’t need an outdoor chapel in a field designated for underground pipeline construction until they knew that was where the pipeline would be?
While the KELO decision which allowed a private company to take property from citizens to bring more tax dollars to the town of New London is considered one of the more egregious decisions by Supreme Court liberals, this would be a classic case of eminent domain properly used to provide affordable energy for millions of people; exactly the concept of constitutional eminent domain, as long as the property owners are compensated fairly.
What lawyers will likely argue outside and perhaps inside the courtroom is whether the nuns have religious standing and whether ignoring their environmental activism presents a genuine religious burden when they put up religious establishments in the way of planned pipelines.
Rick Jensen is a talk show host on WDEL id Delaware. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.