Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Texas Supreme Court Takes Church Prison Ministry Case

This press release from the Liberty Legal Institute describes an important court case that will determine whether Texas cities can bar prison ministries from assisting nonviolent offenders in their jurisdictions using zoning laws. The Texas Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the case. From the Liberty Institute::
DALLAS, Dec. 18 /Standard Newswire/ -- The Texas Supreme Court announced it will hear the case, Pastor Rick Barrard Phileneon Homes v. City of Sinton, the first case at the high court interpreting the Texas Religious Freedoms Restoration Act (RFRA).

"This is good news. The decision below was wrong, and overturning it will be important to the religious freedoms of all Texans." Said Kelly Shackelford; Chief Counsel of The Liberty Legal Institute who is representing Pastor Barr and Plileneon.

The case was originally filed by Pastor Barr and Philemeon Homes after the City passed zoning laws barring this ministry from the city. The church ministry's purpose was to assist and rehabilitate non-violent criminals after their release from prison. The trial judgment at the Corpus Christi Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the city, finding the Texas Religious Freedoms Restorations Act did not protect the church and ministry.

"This case not only involves the crucial religious freedom of churches to minister and change lives," said Shackelford. "It also involves correctly interpret the Texas RFRA, which would restore the religious freedoms of every Texan."

The outcome of this case will affect Texas in addition to all other states with RFRA laws as well as the national RFRA which protects all U.S. Citizens. Amicus briefs have thus been filed supporting the Pastor by National Prison Fellowship and ever groups as divergent as the American Civil Liberties Union and American Center for Law and Justice. Oral argument is expected this Spring.

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