Ray, 1-29-2014

My Word: Ham and eggs, a church and a stadium

By Robert J. Ray

There’s a fable that goes like this: A chicken suggests to a pig that they open a restaurant together — they can call it “Ham and Eggs.”

“I’ll provide the eggs,” the chicken excitedly tells the pig, “and you can provide the ham.”

But the pig doesn’t share the chicken’s enthusiasm. And it doesn’t take a genius to understand why. But now to another story.

Orlando is set to construct a new stadium and become home to a Major League Soccer franchise. It’s both a big undertaking and a milestone.

MLS is expected to increase Central Florida’s tourism. Provide jobs. Build community spirit. Create youthful interest in soccer. The list of projected benefits is long.

It will take a packet of money to pull it off. But with a little creative financing here, a slight redistribution there and a few tweaks elsewhere, the goal can be achieved.

But is the pain being distributed equally?

Here’s the problem: The project is predicated on acquiring land on which a church called Faith Deliverance Temple currently stands. The city has offered the congregation more than twice the amount of the property’s appraised value. But the congregation says that at the offered price, the church couldn’t relocate. It would have to close down.

The city is prepared to take the property by eminent domain, which is fully legal. But legal isn’t necessarily fair. And the United States isn’t just a nation of laws; it’s also a nation that aspires to justice for all. Legal and just don’t always come in the same package.

Market valuations often don’t reflect the value to the owner. The going rate for a pound of ham may be $4 or $5, but that’s not the value the pig places on it.

Faith Deliverance Temple should sell its property to the city. And the city should pay enough to allow the congregation to buy new land and rebuild in a location where it can continue its ministry to its current clientele. The general disruption caused by the forced move should also be appropriately compensated.

Clearly, something would be badly askew if Faith Deliverance Temple had to forfeit its collective life just so Major League Soccer might live.

Robert J. Ray, a risk-management consultant, is a member of the executive committee of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida.