In an effort to build a large public housing project in a black neighborhood, the city of Houston has threatened churches who occupy desirable property in the project zone to sell to the city or face eminent domain.
The churches are in a predominantly African American neighborhood where crime has remained rampant for nearly half a century.
Pastor Roy Lee Kossie, a Bishop with the Latter Day Deliverance Revival Church said "This is where the Lord called us. The church, which has served the neighborhood since 1965, won't leave without a fight."
Two churches, The Latter Day church and the nearby First Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, have sued the Houston Housing Authority over their plans to force them to close their churches and sell their land to the city. The Houston Housing Authority plans to demolish the churches and build a 63-unit housing project, a library and a for-profit medical facility in their place.
The Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit in Federal Court on behalf of the churches. Liberty Institute seeks a temporary restraining order to prevent the city “from pursing condemnation proceedings or taking possession or title” of the properties. In the suit, the churches claimed the city offered to buy the properties, but threatened to condemn them and shut them down if they did not agree.
The Liberty Institute faces an uphill battle since the Supreme Court of the United States declared in a 5-4 decision -- Kelo v. City of New London where Justice Stevens wrote the majority opinion -- that governments may take private property for public use, even if the public use includes making room for private businesses, as long as it is in the name of economic development.
Houston's Democratic mayor, Annise Parker, has already found herself in controversy over church-state relations. In 2014, city attorneys subpoened pastors to submit their sermons to the court. Parker's administration sought to discover if pastors encouraged their congregations to oppose an ordinance that, among other things, allowed transexuals to use the opposite bathroom of their sex at birth. Ms. Parker is an open lesbian. After a nationwide outcry among Christians, the city of Houston withdrew their demand at the end of October.
Video produced by Liberty Institute, who represents the two churches at the center of the eminent domain issue: