Eminent domain battle between Orlando church, soccer stadium continues



ORLANDO, Fla. - Leaders at the Faith Deliverance Temple in Orlando have until next week to file a response to an eminent domain lawsuit filed by the city.

The church sits off West Church Street and is right in the middle of a piece of land where the soccer stadium is set to be built.

The church turned down the city’s offer for four times more than their land is worth.

Church leaders said they turned down the offer because they said the spot is priceless.

“It’s not about the money. It’s about being here and being able to worship God freely as we want to,” said Jonathan Williams, the son of one of the church’s founders.

The city believes a $115 million soccer stadium serves a greater public service than the church.

After negotiations broke down, the city moved to take the land by force.

Catherine Williams and her late husband founded the church, whose congregation now spans five generations.

The church moved to the Parramore property more than 30 years ago.

“When God blesses you with something, you don’t just throw it out because they want it. God is worth fighting for,” Catherine Williams said.

Mayor Buddy Dyer said he could not justify using tax dollars to pay the church’s original asking price of $35 million.

It’s a figure similar to what the Dr. Phillips Center paid to get a portion of First United Methodist’s downtown campus.

“They may say, 'It sounds like your church is being greedy.' Is the soccer folk being greedy? Look at what they’re asking for. Is it nice for them to be greedy? Turn the question around the other way,” Catherine Williams said. “We’ve spent our lifetime working for the building.”

The Williams said they may be like David going against Goliath, but they like how that story ended.

“If God be for you, who can be against you?,” Catherine Williams said.

Florida lawmakers passed laws to better protect property owners in 2006.

The church’s attorneys said the case will be the first to test those changes.