WACO (June 25, 2009)-A local church that filed a federal lawsuit more than a year ago against one Central Texas city had its day in court Thursday; after discussion on several issues, the hearing was postponed for September.
While details of the hearing weren’t immediately available Thursday morning, U.S. District Clerk Cheryl Wills told News 10 a second hearing was tentatively scheduled Sept. 14.
Church of the Open Door Pastor Ronnie Holmes said he was looking forward to the trial and wanted to resolve the issue quickly, with little drama.
Bellmead Interim City Manager James Karl was not available for comment Thursday morning.
The House Where Jesus Shines, Inc. vs. The City of Bellmead
The lawsuit was filed in late April of 2008 by the Church of the Open Door against the City of Bellmead following a breakdown in negotiations on whether the church could operate a facility to house ex-convicts inside the city limits.
The church, which currently operates its facility, The House Where Jesus Shines, in McLennan County near Gholson, was attempting to retool an abandoned 70-bed nursing home.
Residents in the surrounding neighborhood however had their objections.
“I'm not for sure what [they’re] doing is bad. It might be good but it don't need to be in the residential area” Bellmead resident Larry Wollard told News 10 in January 2008.
The city responded by creating an ordinance restricting what types of facilities could operate within the city limits.
Citing the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, Holmes says the city’s ordinance discriminated against the church and its outreach program.
State Supreme Court Decision a Factor
The Texas Supreme Court decided last week that a South Texas town violated legal protections against government limits on religious practice when it shut down two religious halfway houses for parolees.
The ruling focused on the dispute involving the city of Sinton, near Corpus Christi.
That decision could have an effect on the outcome of the lawsuit filed by the Church of The Open Door.