“A man’s home is his castle.” Inspired by this sentiment, in 2002, IJ created the Castle Coalition, a nationwide network of citizen advocates, to protect the thousands of home and small business owners targeted by local governments with eminent domain for private development. Using grassroots activism, the Castle Coalition defeated many illegitimate land grabs across the country in the years leading up to the Kelo decision. But Kelo catalyzed us to greater sophistication and success in our fight against eminent domain abuse—providing lessons we would later apply to our activism for economic liberty, school choice and free speech. We simply did what we had never done before.
On the day of the U.S. Supreme Court argument, we organized more than 20 rallies across the country in support of the property owners. Within days of the decision’s release, the Castle Coalition launched the “Hands Off My Home” campaign, which took the fight against eminent domain abuse to the state and local levels. IJ staff crisscrossed the nation testifying before state legislatures and city councils; helped draft reform legislation, ordinances and constitutional amendments; and inspired countless everyday Americans to fight to keep what they worked so hard to own.
The triumph, as Thomas Paine might say, has been glorious. As a result of IJ’s hallmark resilience and the work of the Castle Coalition, since Kelo more than 16,000 properties have been saved by defeating eminent domain projects and blight designations. We applied the lessons learned through the Castle Coalition to create Liberty in Action, IJ’s cutting-edge activism program that advocates on behalf of property owners, entrepreneurs, parents and activists to vindicate their rights.
Steven Anderson is IJ’s managing vice president.