Skip to main content
Unpublished Paper
Selling Land and Religion
ExpressO (2012)
  • Eang Ngov, Barry University
Selling Land and Religion Eang L. Ngov* ABSTRACT Thousands of religious monuments have been donated to cities and towns. Fearing an Establishment Clause violation, some governmental bodies have privatized religious objects and the land beneath them by selling or transferring the objects and land to private parties. Drawing from Establishment Clause jurisprudence involving religious displays, this Article utilizes the Lemon and endorsement tests as analytical tools for resolving the constitutionality of land dispositions involving religious displays. The government purpose for disposing of the religious object and surrounding land have been premised on preserving the religious object as a memorial or commemoration of secular events, avoiding a show of disrespect to religion that might result from the object’s removal, and curing Establishment Clause violations. After examining these purported legislative purposes, this Article argues that the government lacks a predominately secular purpose for disposing public land and in doing so, the government endorses religion by taking extraordinary measures to preserve religious symbols when alternatives exist. Additionally, some land dispositions have included reversionary clauses and restrictive covenants that administratively entangle government with religion, which cannot be mitigated by disclaimers and fencing. The potential for political divisiveness further exacerbates government entanglement. Finally, coupled with the government speech doctrine as interpreted in Pleasant Grove v. Summum, allowing the government to privatize land on which religious objects rest would permit the government to evade the Free Speech and Establishment Clauses’ protection. Thus, this Article concludes that the soundest method of complying with the Establishment Clause is to simply remove the religious monuments and objects—without resorting to divesture of public land.
  • Establishment Clause,
  • selling land,
  • religious object,
  • religious symbol,
  • religious display,
  • land disposition,
  • land exchange,
  • land transfer,
  • Pleasant Grove City v. Summum,
  • Salazar v. Buono,
  • Trunk,
  • Mercier,
  • Chambers,
  • Frederick,
  • cross,
  • Ten Commandments,
  • Lemon,
  • endorsement,
  • McCreary,
  • Van Orden,
  • political divisiveness,
  • entanglement,
  • endorsement
Publication Date
March 5, 2012
Citation Information
Eang Ngov. "Selling Land and Religion" ExpressO (2012)
Available at: