Officials with Liberty Institute say the Houston Housing Authority has backed off a threat to bulldoze one historic church – but a second remains in the bull’s-eye for the loss of its property.
The legal team that fights for religious rights has confirmed that Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church apparently has been spared the city’s condemnation process, but officials still are intent “on using eminent domain to seize the property of a neighboring church – the Latter Day Deliverance Revival Church.”
WND reported only a month ago on the fight that had developed in Houston’s Fifth Ward, known for its violent past.
Pastors Roy Lee Kossie of the Latter Day Center and Quinton Smith of the Christian Fellowship Church both had refused to sell out their properties.
They had been approached numerous times by developers who wanted to take financial advantage of the aggressive urban redevelopment that the city has engaged in in the neighborhood. They refused.
Watch the four-minute mini-documentary released as the court hearings were looming on the struggle of two black churches to keep their ministries in Houston’s Fifth Ward:
Then the Houston Housing Authority stepped in, threatening to use its powers of eminent domain to bulldoze the one church and take property from the second.
Liberty Institute on Aug. 4 filed a lawsuit on behalf of the churches – explaining for the governmental agency to take the properties would be to violate the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The Institute said the Housing Authority rescinded its threat to Christian Fellowship Church after a recent hearing.
“My great-granddaughter is six years old,” pastor Smith’s wife said, in a statement released by Liberty. “She keeps asking, ‘Why do they want to take our church?’ She wants to get baptized at our church.”
But the battle continues for Latter Day Church, Liberty said.
During a court hearing, a Harris County District Court judge rejected a request for a temporary injunction.
The church was planted by Kossie almost 50 years ago, and now includes a children’s ministry, food pantry and more.
The land the city agency wants now is used for regular tent revivals, to distribute food and other community outreaches.
“If the government can do this to us, they could do it to other churches,” said church member Simmie Driver at the hearing. “That’s why we have to stand.”
Jeremy Dys, senior counsel for Liberty, said the government cannot take a church’s property and give it to someone else for a profit.
“These churches, their congregations, and this neighborhood are not for sale,” he said.