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Fifth Amendment Violation Alert

Government Bans Gardens, Promotes Food Stamps Instead

Written by Jeff Siegel
Posted March 22, 2013

Last year I told you about Julie Bass from Oak Park, Michigan.

To refresh your memory, Julie Bass was the woman threatened with fines and jail time for growing vegetables in her own yard.Freedom Watch

That's right. Due to a violation of city code that requires yards to have “suitable plant material” only (whatever that means), Bass was told that her garden was not suitable — and would have to be destroyed.

Talk about useless bureaucrats with too much time on their hands!

Fortunately, the case against Bass was dropped. But this kind of thing happens all the time.

Truth is no matter where you go in this nation, you can find a laundry list of completely arbitrary and counterproductive regulatory codes that blatantly violate basic property rights.

What Would Thomas Jefferson Do?

Can you imagine if some pencil-pusher with a badge walked up to Thomas Jefferson and suggested developing a set of rules that would dissuade folks from planting gardens? It's absurd.

Yet somehow, in 2013 bureaucrats from both red and blue states combined not only create such ridiculous rules and regulations, but actually have the stones to enforce them.

And this goes way beyond personal gardens...

As reported by Summer Tierney in Natural News this week, Tracy Gugal-Okroy, a resident of Virginia Beach, is facing criminal charges related to zoning ordinance violations for keeping chickens in her backyard:

Gugal-Okroy's friendly flock has grown to 22 since 2011, when she purchased her first dozen baby chicks from a local farm. Each one is a family pet, she says, and her family has named them all. In addition to the enjoyment of their beloved companionship, Gugal-Okroy's family has come to reap additional benefits from looking after the chickens — namely, the continual production of fresh, organic eggs, a steady supply of sustainable garden compost and fertilizer the chicken's manure provides, and even natural pest elimination as the chickens feed on mosquitoes and other bugs. The chickens are quiet and well-protected from predators, keeping either to their coop or fenced-in quarters. And all are there with blessings from Gugal-Okroy's neighbors, with whom she had consulted beforehand.

But her neighborly courtesy doesn't mean much to local officials in the City of Virginia Beach. A January 2012 notice from the city inspector alerted Gugal-Okroy that by keeping her chickens on her property, she may be in violation of a local zoning ordinance referring to "agricultural and horticultural uses" within residential districts, and excepting "poultry." Despite her subsequent appellate fight, which included multiple letters of support from neighbors, the City's Zoning Board of Appeals maintained that chickens were not allowed in the city.

A later subsequent to the circuit court also ended poorly for Gugal-Okroy, when in an October 2012 ruling, the court upheld the zoning board's decision, finding that Gugal-Okroy had, in fact, violated the zoning ordinance. By that time, Gugal-Okroy had also received a summons charging her with violating the city's ordinance, which included a possible fine of up to $1,000.

Seeds and Shovels

In the early part of the 20th century, my grandparents raised chickens in their backyard. This kind of thing was pretty common back then. And certainly no one would've ever thought to fine or arrest them for producing their own food on their property.

The mere thought of such a thing would have been beyond comprehension.

Yet here we are today, smothered by dozens of superfluous rules, codes, and regulations that deny citizens the very basic right to grow and produce their own food.

This is insane.

I would think lawmakers would actually want to support such endeavors these days. After all, for all those folks struggling to put food on the table, personal gardens and backyard chickens make a lot more sense than food stamps.

In fact, imagine for a moment that instead of food stamps being used to buy unhealthy, processed, subsidized “food” from convenience stores and fast-food restaurants, those who need a little help in these tough economic times are able to procure seeds, shovels, and a little guidance. I'm sure you know the old saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime...”

Quite frankly, if someone wants to raise chickens in order to feed himself instead of seeking a handout from the government, that should be applauded — not criminalized.

Violating the Fifth Amendment

Despite my continued support for those who actively grow their own vegetables and raise backyard chickens, the bigger issue here boils down to property rights. While some may not look at this particular situation as pressing as the outright theft of property by the government or special interests, this can be a very slippery slope...

To mandate that a property owner cannot use his own property to sustain his life is little more than a backdoor violation of the Fifth Amendment, which states no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property.

Sure, the government may not be depriving Tracy Gugal-Okroy of her actual, tangible piece of land. But imposing such restrictions on that land negates the self-sustainability advantages of property ownership and significantly restrains liberty.

This is unacceptable. Property rights contribute to the very foundation or our personal liberty, and fighting to protect them is the responsibility of all freedom-loving Americans.

And if you're unsure of this, let me leave you with two quotes regarding property rights. You pick the one that makes the most sense to you:

“The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property.”  — Karl Marx

“The right to procure property and to use it for one's own enjoyment is essential to the freedom of every person, and our other rights would mean little without these rights of property ownership.” — Thomas Jefferson

Live honorably, live free...

Jeff Siegel Signature 

Jeff Siegel for Freedom Watch

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