Town approves permits to repair church founded by freed slaves

The city council has lifted from a church founded by freed slaves the threat it had created earlier about the future of the facility.

According to First Liberty Institute, the council in Addison, Texas, now has approved a zone application for White Rock Chapel, which had been a historic site since its designation by the Texas Historical Commission in 2000.

“This small, African American church is a reminder to everyone in Addison that unity, diversity, and religious freedom are core values that strengthen all communities,” James Grossman, of McDermott Will and Emery LLP, said. “We are thrilled that the chapel will be free to continue to serve its community.”

The chapel, founded by formerly enslaved men and women – purchased land and built the very first church out of rough-hewn logs near White Rock Creek following emancipation. In 1918, after enduring years of devastating flash floods, the congregation moved to higher ground at the current location,” the legal team explained.

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“In August 2018, the current owners of White Rock Chapel purchased the property and brought it out of receivership. By doing so, they saved this historic church from demolition and preserved its rich history and legacy. They then sought building permits to restore the property. The city council denied the permits even after they were advanced by the city’s planning and zoning commission. Monday night’s vote provides the permit necessary for the church to continue to exist in Addison.”

“We are pleased that the Addison City Council recognizes the rights of this historic African American church to remain at this location has it has for more than 100 years and continue to serve the needs of people in the surrounding areas,” said Jeremy Dys, of First Liberty.

WND had reported weeks ago the church has endured flash floods, the destruction of a building in a storm, a fire, and more.

The opposition to the church apparently came from its neighbors.

A report from First Liberty Institute at the time said they objected to “the church’s right to exist.”

The legal team then advised the city to “ignore the heckling of a handful of neighbors and allow this small, African American church to exemplify the core values of unity, diversity, and religious freedom that strengthen all communities.”

The original of the church was on the banks of White Rock Creek after emancipation. It was moved to higher ground after years of flash floods.

The city had been advised that its refusal to grant the church its needed permits likely the chapel’s rights under the First Amendment, RLIUPA and others laws.

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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.

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