Case Study

Beyond Redemption: The Business of Cemetery Eminent Domain

Christine Ladwig
October 21, 2019
North America
Strategy & General Management, Ethics & Social Justice
7 pages
eminent domain, cemetery, public development, public use, private development, ethics
Student Price: 
$4.00 (€3.73)
Average rating: 

In 1849, parishioners of the Chicago, Illinois, German United Evangelical Reformed Lutheran Church began burying their beloved dead in the adjacent St. Johannes Cemetery. Although church congregants expected their departed would remain in their resting places indefinitely, the City of Chicago had a different plan. As Chicago authorities planned to take the cemetery’s property and relocate over 1,400 dead Lutherans, attorney Joe Karaganis began the fight to preserve and support the religious beliefs of the buried and living St. Johannes faithful. Although Karaganis knew it was legal to take religious cemetery property through eminent domain, he sought to show airport and city authorities that such a taking was not ethical. In light of the pressures of accelerated development, this case examined whether the property of the religious dead should be considered unique in character, separated from other forms of real property and entitled to special protection under the law.

Learning Outcomes: 

In completing this assignment, students should be able to:

  1. Describe the ethical problem of the eminent domain of religious cemeteries.
  2. Identify the stakeholders affected by the eminent domain taking presented in the case study.
  3. Compare and contrast the influence of public versus private use of cemetery land on the ethical issues in the case.
  4. Distinguish the difference between an issue that is legal and an issue that is ethical.
  5. Assess whether governmental authorities should be allowed to override cemetery protection laws.
  6. Design an ethical argument and find support in ethics model(s).
  7. Generate alternative courses of action in lieu of the eminent domain taking of cemeteries.


The case is most appropriate for students in courses such as business law, legal environment of business, economics, public policy and ethics.