Sunday, June 15, 2014

Bible Study Limit in Homes in Texas City Rescinded

Officials of Plano, Texas issued a cease-and-desist order to bar a few hours of Bible study just once per month if more than eight people gathered in residences of a Christian shelter ministry, but after a Christian attorney challenged the order as being unconstitutional and illegal on several grounds, the city backed off and apologized for their action.
“The confusion that happened for the city was that the ordinance said you can’t have more than eight people living in the house or being serviced at the house.  There were only four people living in the house, but another 12 people were coming over for dinner, fellowship and group counseling once a month, and the city said you can’t do that. … That was a misreading of their own ordinance.”
-- Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute attorney
For background, read Florida City Finds Family Guilty of Home Bible Studies and also read Phoenix Christian Jailed for Home Worship Gatherings as well as City Permit Required for Bible Study in California

In contrast, read Texas Mayor Declares 2014 as the 'Year of the Bible'

-- From "Plano Is Threatening to Close a Women's Shelter Because It Shelters Too Many Women" by Emily Mathis, Dallas Observer 6/11/14

Agape is a Christian organization that lends crisis housing support to women, their children and unaccompanied children in need. They provide shelter to homeless women and children, as well as community ministry and counseling. They operate out of four residential homes as Household Care Facilities, according to the city of Plano.

But a Plano city ordinance decrees that no more than eight people, and two caregivers, reside in a single home. And because Agape facilities are in a residential home, the number of women and children being housed, plus Agape members, often exceeds that limit. The City of Plano issued a cease and desist order to Agape, with the promise to close its doors if Agape does not comply.

Agape has cried foul: Liberty Institute and attorney Kirte Kinser have threatened to sue the city on behalf of Agape, saying Plano is in violation of the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and the constitutional first amendment.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "City of Plano, Agape settle code violation issue" by Bill Conrad, Plano Star Courier 6/15/14

“Contrary to media reports, the city of Plano is not banning the ministry gatherings of Agape,” a statement issued by the city read. “The city ordinances do not ban social gatherings in residences. The misunderstanding has been resolved between the city and Agape. A notice of code violation was issued in error, and it has been retracted with an apology extended. The city values the services provided by nonprofit organizations in the support of our community.”

Residents who live near the O Avenue residence said there have been several issues since Agape purchased the house in June 2013. Chief among them is the amount of people coming and going from the house on a weekly basis.

“I think they are having a church service there on Wednesday nights,” said Debi Arnold, who has lived on O Avenue for several decades. “There will be so many cars parked up and down the street that you can’t get in and out of your driveway.”

. . . Arnold said she and her neighbors are planning on hiring an attorney and will be considering their legal options to see if there is anything they can do to get the shelter to close down.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Texas City Reverses Decision, Allows Christian Ministry to Hold Monthly Bible Study" by Katherine Weber, Christian Post Reporter 6/13/14

The Liberty Institute, with the help of Dallas-based lawyer Kirte Kinser, sent a demand letter to Cynthia O'Banner, director of the property standards department for the City of Plano, arguing that the city was violating the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the Texas Constitution by ordering the Agape center to cease holding its monthly Bible studies.

"It is unlawful and unjust for the City of Plano to ban the ministry of Agape Resources and Assistance from fulfilling its calling to serve local women and children in crisis," Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute's director of litigation, stated. "We are hopeful that the City of Plano will lift its unlawful ban, and no further legal action will be necessary. This is an outrageous violation of our client's religious freedom."

On June 12, the Christian ministry received a letter from the City of Plano explaining that an error had been made and that the center could continue to hold its monthly Bible studies.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

Also read California City Official Yanked: Caught Reading Bible as well as President Obama's National Cathedral is the Seat of Apostasy

The root issue is American Religious Liberty vs. Anti-Christian Totalitarianism