A case that raised the specter of city bulldozers crunching across the properties of two historic churches apparently has ended with Houston’s decision to drop eminent domain proceedings.
The announcement comes from Liberty Institute, which had sued the city over the threats to Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church and Latter Day Deliverance Revival Center.
The group said Monday that Houston Housing Authority officials have dropped the claim on land belonging to Latter Day Deliverance Revival Church. Previously, the city announced it would no longer pursue the property of Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church.
Revival Church Bishop Roy Lee Kossie, 83, in his 60th year as a pastor, said, “We are overjoyed that we can now continue to minister to the Fifth Ward without fear of losing our property.”
He continued, “This is where the Lord called Latter Day Deliverance Revival Church to serve and this is where we can now stay.”
Three months ago, Liberty Institute and several volunteers filed a lawsuit under the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act against the city agency for threatening to take the property.
“We applaud the Housing Authority for making the right decision and respecting the right of this church to continue its ministry if the Fifth Ward,” added Aaron Streett, a partner at the law firm of Baker Botts LLP. “Churches are vital to our communities and government should never threaten to push churches off their own property.”
Liberty said the HHA had tried to buy the churches’ properties and when unsuccessful notified the churches it could use eminent domain to condemn the properties and seize them.
WND reported when the city backed off its pursuit of the property of Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church.
Kossie of the Latter Day Center and Pastor Quinton Smith of the Christian Fellowship Church had refused to sell out their properties.
They had been approached numerous times by developers who wanted to take financial advantage of the city’s aggressive urban redevelopment in the neighborhood.
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, contending the seizure 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The institute said the Housing Authority rescinded its threat to Christian Fellowship Church after a recent hearing.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 6 years old,” 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.”