Black Jack, Did It Again

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

The town of Black Jack, Missouri has denied a “residency permit” to a family who bought a house in the town, because said family didn’t conform to the town council’s definition of “family.”

This would be the second time the town has told a family they aren’t allowed to live on their own property.

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41 Responses to “Black Jack, Did It Again”

  1. #1 |  Jonathan Hohensee | 

    I was expecting so much more from the star of Nacho Libre

  2. #2 |  UCrawford | 

    I love how about half of the time you see a story like this, it’s coming out of Missouri. This ranks right up there with the story about the guy who shot his wife in Sedalia because he was using his .22 to drill a hole through his trailer wall for his satellite TV (Full disclosure: I’m from Kansas and have dealt with far too many people from Missouri to dismiss this stuff as an anomaly).

    A friend of mine who’s familiar with Black Jack noted that it’s an overwhelmingly Baptist region, which probably explains their reasoning that it’s okay to oppress people who choose to settle in their hole of a town.

  3. #3 |  Michael Pack | 

    How can these permits be legal?I guess the Bill of Rights is quickly becoming moot.

  4. #4 |  Mister DNA | 

    Not to needlessly stir things up, but is race a factor in this case?

    It appears the family in the previous case was interracial.

  5. #5 |  UCrawford | 

    Apparently, the law as it was written applies to any unmarried persons. But it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to find out that the people who are getting hosed by the rule happen to be of a different ethnic group than the rest of the town.

    You’re talking about a region whose public university pushes the state’s pro-slavery roots in their rivalry with Kansas. If you’ve ever seen a KU-Missouri game where the Missouri fans wore those “183-0” t-shirts, that’s referring to the incident where pro-slavery border ruffians from Missouri rode into Lawrence, dragged people from their homes and executed 183 of them in the streets before burning the city to the ground.

    If there is a racial component to this law’s enforcement, I’d love to see that city attorney who claimed he’ll take this to court try and justify that to a judge.

  6. #6 |  Tokin42 | 

    This is outrageous. Does this town think they don’t have to abide by federal or state laws? Unless they have 20 people living in the house, a house zoned for residential automatically comes with an “occupancy” permit.

  7. #7 |  James D | 

    That’s pretty nuts UCrawford. Being an ASU (AZ State) alum, I hate the University of AZ with a passion sometime (longest college rivalry in the nation too apparently) … but I’m pretty sure I’d never wear a shirt that basically says: “Hey, remember when we killed 183 people from Tucson?”.

    I can’t really add anything to the main story. My response was basically what Tokin42 said.

  8. #8 |  Cappy | 

    Is the house condemned?

    If not, then it can be occupied.

    Did the people who bought the house have their name on the title/deed?

    If so, it’s their property.

    Go ahead, move on in. Who’s gonna stop them?

    The cops?

    Really? Think there won’t be a national stink when the cops are enforcing an ordinance prohibiting a person from residing on their own property when those same cops are looking down the barrel of a citizen’s gun?

    Freedom of association.

  9. #9 |  UCrawford | 

    James D,

    Oh well, at least Kansas fans came up with a decent rebuttal t-shirt.

  10. #10 |  You All Disgust Me » Blog Archive » Black Jack, Did It Again | 

    […] Black Jack, Did It Again: […]

  11. #11 |  James D | 

    Yeah, that’s pretty good UCrawford.

  12. #12 |  The Liberty Papers »Blog Archive » States Rights — Petty Oppression Better Than Widespread Oppression? | 

    […] Tip: Radley Balko Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and […]

  13. #13 |  Marty | 

    I used to work in black jack. it’s a classic older suburb experiencing white flight. the old guard’s trying to ‘protect’ their town. It’s a little town with a lot of code enforcement. race is definitely a factor.

  14. #14 |  Edintally | 

    The city of Ladue (metro St. Louis, like Black Jack) also has an ordinance against unmarried couples living together. North St. Louis County is probably around 50/50 black/white(more or less), but there are some all white hold outs. It has less to do with race than the conservative values of the area (although St. Louis is historically one of the most racist cities in the country).

  15. #15 |  UCrawford | 


    It has less to do with race than the conservative values of the area

    Sadly, “conservative values” and racism are often the same thing. People who try to adhere to “conservative values” often fear change, and to many of those folks nothing represents change like people from a different ethnic group showing up.

  16. #16 |  Scott | 

    Why is anyone surprised by this? You’re already prohibited from occupying your own property if you fail to pay tribute to your local governments via property taxes. The Black Jack case is just the natural extension of a refusal to accept the sanctity of private ownership of property.

  17. #17 |  Gene Trosper | 

    Missouri has never really been a place free people would want to live. In 1838, the Mormons who settled Missouri were the target of an all out “extermination order” by then Governor Liliburn Boggs. I kid you not:

  18. #18 |  Blue | 

    It seems to be our national immigration policy that we only let people live here with a permit. Why then shouldn’t localities be able to deny permit for residency? If the couple had a proper license (marriage) then there wouldn’t be a problem.

    Of course I don’t believe in closed borders, occupancy permits or marriage licensing for a singular principled reason.

  19. #19 |  Matt Moore | 

    #6 Tokin42 – I just found out today that this kind of occupancy law is legal in Missouri. City of Ladue v. Horn is the case, and it was ruled in the city’s favor in 1986.

    I’m not sure why no one has pushed this to federal court. I don’t see how this could possibly jibe with freedom of association.

  20. #20 |  Bill | 

    My permit is my revolver.
    Any questions?

  21. #21 |  UCrawford | 


    I’m not sure why no one has pushed this to federal court. I don’t see how this could possibly jibe with freedom of association.

    Because it’s tough for people lacking opposable thumbs to push anything.


  22. #22 |  nate | 

    Why would the real estate agent not have disclosed this?

  23. #23 |  Cheerful Iconoclast | 

    Jeez, am I the only one who thinks the whole notion of a “residency permit” to occupy your own house is bizarre? I’ve never heard of such a thing.

  24. #24 |  Tokin42 | 


    I know in Indiana there are a few communities that have enacted, or tried to enact, occupancy laws aimed at immigrant families and college kids. They’ve been based on actual numbers instead of familial relationships.

  25. #25 |  Matt Moore | 

    #23 Tokin42 – Yes, many (most?) cities have occupancy laws to stop boarding houses and brothels from springing up in residential neighborhoods. As libertarian those bug me, but as a realist they’re not high on my priority list.

    Usually the occupancy permit (or certificate of occupancy, which is what Raleigh, NC called it) is tagged to the house and enforcement only comes into play if the neighbors complain about the number of cars or amount of traffic. In these towns in Missouri it’s different, though… the occupancy permit is applied for by the occupants, and if they don’t get it, they can’t move in. If these people had just moved in, no one ever would have complained about the unmarried couple next door, mostly because no one ever would have known they were unmarried.

    That sort of preemptive prying into people’s lives really bothers me. Laws used to shut down boarding houses because the neighbors complain that they’re a nuisance… those don’t bother me quite as much.

    I’d still like to know why this has never been challenged in federal court.

  26. #26 |  Ed Brand | 

    Do I think this ordinance is crap and unfair? Absolutely.

    Do I feel sorry for this family? Not exactly.

    It’s like joining the military, signing a lease, or any other contract for that matter; you need to know what you are getting yourself into.

    Buying a house and relocating is a huge deal, I for one would get all sorts of information together before deciding that “This is the place for me!” The couple should have looked into all of the local laws before purchasing the property.

  27. #27 |  Nando | 

    So, if a single mom wants to move to a home in Black Jack, it’s OK? What about if she wants to get a roommate to help pay the bills and the roommate happens to be male? What if she moves in with her cousin (I’m sure that’s legal in MO, right?)

    I wonder if these idiots would’ve done the same to my wife and I. We lived together for 2.5 years before getting married last month. Probably not, since we’re both white professionals who earn over 80K each a year. They’d love to have us.

  28. #28 |  ParatrooperJJ | 

    In more then a few states unmarried couples living together are commiting a crime.

  29. #29 |  Mike | 

    I’m sure it will be challenged at some point but you first have to find someone willing buy a house with a bunch of asshats as neighbors. That’s probabaly as tough as the federal law challenge.

    I think some of the comments were amusing. Russell is mad that we are not tolerant of his intolerance. LoL.

    Russell: “why is it that when a town or community that want’s to harbor illegal aliens, or pedifiles, or muslims, or criminals or homosexuals thats ok, but if a town as a community has decided how THEY want to live and it happens to be the opposite of what DEMs and liberals want thats not O.K. if anyone in this country lives by double standards its the leftist liberals. Why is it you preach tolerance so long as its the tolerance you believe in, but those that don’t convert to your way are condemned????????? I thought by your stated idiology that ALL peoples are entitled to thier believes and practices???? PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH LIBERAL AMERICA “

  30. #30 |  anne | 

    Actually, I think this crazy little town is probably compatible with the intentions of the framers of the Constitution. The Bill of Rights (pre 14th Amendment/incorporation clause) only applied to the actions of the federal government. And though Russell’s comments are poorly worded and angry, he makes a point worth teasing out: why shouldn’t local communities be able to define their character and preserve, protect, and evolve their distinctive way of life? I say let Berkeley prohibit military recruitment, and let little old Black Jack prohibit those “livin’ in sin.” (Which, for the record, I did for a year before marrying my husband – guess I wouldn’t have been welcome in Black Jack. Oh well.) If you don’t like it, this is a big country – move somewhere else. Think of it as free-market association.

  31. #31 |  Michael Pack | 

    anne,A little thing called property rights gets in the way.This is just like Jim Crow laws.

  32. #32 |  UCrawford | 


    If you’re talking about a private homeowner’s association setting standards I’ve got no problem with that. Government intervening in this manner is always a bad thing. It’s not the government’s role to “preserve culture”…that’s just institutionalized bigotry. Government’s role is to represent the interests of all residents, not just the ones it happens to like.

  33. #33 |  Zeb | 

    I can see the reason for some regulation when you get into boarding houses and bordellos, but to need a permit just to live on your own property is ridiculous.

  34. #34 |  anne | 

    UCrawford – you’re right. I cede my point. Homeowner’s associations are a better vehicle for this.

  35. #35 |  Matt Moore | 

    anne, UCrawford – Homeowner’s associations are a terrible vehicle for this. HOA’s are basically a pseudo-government and it’s no more or less unjust for them to trample on my rights.

    If you’re doing something that doesn’t bother your neighbors, that they won’t even know about without going through your mail, then they have no right to make you stop doing it. Period. It doesn’t matter what sort organization, governmental or private, they try to use to make you stop.

    In more then a few states unmarried couples living together are commiting a crime.

    Those laws are on the books but rarely enforced. And in very few of those places are you required to supply proof of marriage before they let you move in.

  36. #36 |  Mike | 

    While a private homeowner’s group doing this is a better vehicle, the difference to me here isn’t government vs a private group its more of a scaling issue.

    This was an entire town, whereas a homeowners association would be smaller. Hypothetically if you replace the ‘undesirables’ above with someone a more rational person wouldn’t want to live near (3 time rapist with 26 drunken driving convictions perhaps?) Expanding the concept to an entire town doesn’t make these people go away it just shifts them to some other nearby community.

    On a town level if you ship all your rapists/murderers/thieves elsewhere you could reduce the size of your police force due to your now lower crime rate. Meanwhile my town has to hire an extra officer to deal with your misplaced people. Should your town really be getting the benefit of lower taxes here?

    Hypothetically a very large private homeowner’s association could have the same consequences. Of course in this case the so called ‘undesirables’ really aren’t so there wouldn’t be an issue.

  37. #37 |  UCrawford | 


    Homeowner’s associations are government by contract…you know the rules going in before you buy the home, the power they have is legitimate because they have an ownership stake, and they don’t get to change the rules on you without penalty to them because 50% + 1 decided to do so (unless it’s written into your contract)…and if they try it you have legal recourse because of the contract you signed. If people want to “preserve culture” a homeowner’s association is a far better tool to do it because it doesn’t trample on any rights you didn’t choose to give away in a written contract…the same can’t be said of government.

    That said, I seriously doubt I’d ever buy a house under the authority of a homeowner’s association for the very reasons you listed. But then I’m also not a Baptist and I have enough of a life not to care what my neighbors are doing with theirs as long as it doesn’t affect me.

  38. #38 |  UCrawford | 


    Good points.

  39. #39 |  Matt Moore | 

    UCrawford – Yeah, I don’t know much about the inner workings of HOAs… I’d never live under one either. Unfortunately that pretty much limits me to houses built in the 1970s, and neighbors that don’t necessarily mow their lawn frequently, but I’m willing to live with that.

    From the outside looking in they appear to unelected governments that gain power from the lack of diligence of home buyers. How many people worry about their HOA when they buy a house (other than the amount of the dues and the pool provided)? Only after moving in do they realize that some busybody is going to bust them for leaving their trashcans out or using an unapproved paint color.

    Regardless, I still think it’s unjust for an HOA to regulate something that can’t possibly bother the neighbors. Trash cans, weeds, and paint color is fine. The legal status of my relationships… none of anybody’s business.

  40. #40 |  UCrawford | 


    How many people worry about their HOA when they buy a house (other than the amount of the dues and the pool provided)?

    I did…and my realtor was pretty good about going through the pros and cons of homeowners associations with me when I started looking for houses. Of course, I was pretty picky about the house I chose too…made sure to check out the neighborhood thoroughly before closing, looked around to see how much expansion was going to happen in my area. I figure anyone who invests as much money as you do in a house and doesn’t check out all the angles kind of deserves what they get. And with a homeowners association you pretty much know what you’re in for before you close if you check them out. That’s not really the case with the government in Black Jack because if you’re moving to another town who would really think that an elected government would tell you it’s illegal to live in the house you bought if you’re unmarried? Plus, it’s something that could change after the purchase too…which would make it even more unjust. I wonder if the realtor told them about that angle before she sold them the property? They certainly had to know about it. If so, that would seem to constitute fraud on the realtor’s part.

    Regardless, I still think it’s unjust for an HOA to regulate something that can’t possibly bother the neighbors.

    If you sign a contract to abide by their terms while you live there, it’s just…so long as they’re adhering to their end of the contract. If they’re doing things that aren’t part of the arrangement, however, that’s another story.

  41. #41 |  UCrawford | 

    Trash cans, weeds, and paint color is fine. The legal status of my relationships… none of anybody’s business.

    Preaching to the choir on that one, brother.