Rose Mary Knick doesn’t believe there are bodies buried on her eastern Pennsylvania farmland. And she doesn’t want people strolling onto her property to visit what her town says is a small cemetery.
Six years ago, Knick’s town passed an ordinance that requires anyone with a cemetery on his or her land to open it to the public during the day. The town ordered Knick to comply, threatening a fine if she didn’t. Knick’s response? Fighting all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. “Would you want somebody roaming around in your backyard?” she asks.
The Supreme Court isn’t going to weigh in on whether there’s a cemetery on Knick’s land. Instead, it’s considering whether people with property rights cases can bring them to federal court or must instead go to state court.
Knick says her town’s ordinance wouldn’t protect her if people injure themselves on her land and sue. And she says if the town is going to take her private property and open it to the public, they should pay her.
Knick says she’s never seen any gravestones or other evidence of a cemetery. Her land does have some rock fences and several areas where there are rectangular, flat rocks on the ground. “Are they a marker? I have no clue,” she says.
Knick’s neighbor Robert Vail, Sr., says there’s a cemetery on her land. Vail’s family has lived in the area since the 1800s. He says some of his relatives are buried there. All he wants, he says, is to visit Knick’s land a few times a year to clean up, plant a flag, and pay his respects to his relatives.
Knick marvels at how far her case has gone. “I never dreamed in a million years that I’d be at the Supreme Court defending my property rights.”
(AP Photo: Rose Mary Knick speaks outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, October 3.)