Members of two historic churches in Houston, Texas are rejoicing after the city of Houston abandoned efforts to use eminent domain power to destroy the churches' outdoor ministry areas.
The announcement comes from Liberty Institute, who took the cases pro bono and sued the city over threats to Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church and Latter Day Deliverance Revival Center, both predominantly black churches.
In a statement emailed to the Gospel Herald, the Liberty Institute on Monday revealed that Houston Housing Authority officials dropped the claim on land belonging to Latter Day Deliverance Revival Church. A short time earlier, 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."
In August, the Liberty Institute and several volunteers filed a lawsuit under the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act against the city agency for threatening to bulldoze 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."
The Liberty Institute revealed that when attempts to buy the churches' properties proved unsuccessful, the HHA notified the churches it could use eminent domain to condemn the properties and seize them.
According to the report, both churches were approached numerous times by developers who wanted to take financial advantage of the city's aggressive urban redevelopment in the neighborhood.
However, Bishop Kossie of the Latter Day Center and Pastor Quinton Smith of the Christian Fellowship Church had refused to sell out their properties.
In response, the Houston Housing Authority threatened to use its powers of eminent domain to bulldoze the one church and take property from the second. A short time later, the Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit on behalf of the churches, arguing 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The institute said the Housing Authority rescinded its threat to Christian Fellowship Church after a recent hearing.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."
Breitbart News notes that last year, the City of Houston issued subpoenas to five area pastors, demanding that they turn over their sermons and correspondence relating to a transgender bathroom bill. However, the city eventually withdrew the subpoenas following widespread protests.