Property rights are the foundation of a free society. They enable each of us to live according to our personal values and to pursue happiness in our own way, provided we don’t violate anyone else’s rights. That’s why the federal Constitution and every state constitution explicitly protects our rights to own, use, and sell property. Yet government officials frequently seek to violate these rights for political expediency, to benefit special interests, or to settle scores.
In Montana, conservative legislators have proposed a bill that would bar nonprofit organizations from purchasing land from willing sellers at a fair price. If enacted, the law would be a brazen violation of the Montana Constitution, which recognizes “acquiring, possessing, and protecting property” among the “inalienable rights” off-limits to government interference.
Why target nonprofits acquiring property? The bill’s sponsor recently penned an article in which he made his motivation clear. There is a particular organization, American Prairie Reserve, which he would like to “legislate…out of existence.” But, since the constitution doesn’t allow him to, he’s attacking its property rights instead. If the bill passes, he may soon learn that the Constitution doesn’t allow that either.