The Missouri Bill of Rights contains four sections concerned with the protection of citizens’ property rights:
“All persons have a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the enjoyment of the gains of their own industry;… to give security to these things is the principal office of government, and… when government does not confer this security, it fails in its chief design.” Mo. Const. Art. 1, § 2
“No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Mo. Const. Art. 1, § 10.
“Private property shall not be taken or damaged for public use without just compensation.” Mo. Const. Art. 1, § 26.
“Private property shall not be taken for private use with or without compensation… [and] when an attempt is made to take private property for a use alleged to be public, the question whether the contemplated use be public shall be judicially determined without regard to any legislative declaration that the use is public.” Mo. Const. Art. 1, § 28
This four-fold layer of protection emphasizes the great importance that Missourians have historically placed on the security of their property rights. In the years following the adoption of Missouri’s Constitution of 1875, this Court strictly construed these provisions, regularly striking down legislation that infringed upon the property rights protected therein. The Missouri Supreme Court’s early opinions fastidiously noted that, however great the power of the government to regulate issues related to the health, safety, and welfare of the public, this power was not a trump card by which government officials could ignore citizens’ property rights. Unfortunately, these rights have eroded over time, allowing Missouri to develop one of the nation’s worst records for eminent domain abuse and other infringements on the rights of private property owners. The Freedom Center of Missouri will work to ensure that this state reclaims its historical respect for property rights.