In what Christians consider as a blatant display of hostility towards them, the city of Houston in Texas has made known its intent to bulldoze one church and condemn the property of another so that it can build affordable housing and public library for city residents.
This prompted the Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church and the Latter Day Deliverance Revival Center to file a case against the Houston Housing Authority (HHA), on Tuesday, asking the judge to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the city from taking over church property.
The Liberty Institute—which represents the two Christian bodies—said Houston's plan to take over church property violates the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Texas Constitution as this would "substantially burden the free exercise of religion" of the people who will be affected by the city's action.
The Christian Fellowship Church has been in existence for 39 years while the Latter Day Center has been in operation for over 60 years.
"We've been here for years. We've watched the children grow up. We've been a safe place for them when things are bad at home. If the city makes us leave the Fifth Ward, what will happen to the children? We just want the City to leave us alone so we can keep helping these kids," said Christian Fellowship Church Pastor Quinton Smith.
For his part, Bishop Roy Lee Kossie said: "This is our home. This is where the Lord called us to serve and this is where we want to stay. We aren't giving up without a fight."
The HHA, according to Fox News, has already implemented eminent domain proceedings.
"The government cannot take a church's property and give it to some other business in violation of the law," said Hiram Sasser, attorney for Liberty Institute. "These churches, their congregations, and this neighbourhood are not for sale."
Tory Gunsolley, HHA president, said the Latter Day Church "is essentially the alley of the block we are trying to redevelop. Without that strip of land we will not be able to build the units or library."
The two churches are located in the Fifth Ward, which has a history of violence and crime.
The HHA offered to buy the property of the two churches, but they refused. It said if Latter Day did not respond to the letters sent by HHA, condemnation proceedings would follow next.