In The Church

Vietnamese Church in Plano, Texas Fights Against Unconstitutional Zoning Restrictions

Posted May 11th, 2012

Liberty Institute Makes Texas History Interpreting Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (TRFRA)

Plano Vietnamese Baptist Church, et al. v. City of Plano

People from all over the world come to America in search of religious freedom. This is true of many members of the Plano Vietnamese Baptist Church (PVBC), who fled religious persecution under the communist regime in Vietnam, and came to America in the 1980s and 1990s in search of a better life. So when a city threatened the future of their church, Liberty Institute stepped in.

Many members of the PVBC drew from their own savings to purchase an abandoned church for their growing membership. Despite following the proper procedures, the city denied the congregation a certificate of occupancy because the property did not meet a specific site requirement – a requirement that applied only to houses of worship. When the city stalled the church’s move because it did not meet the arbitrary and discriminatory requirements, the church turned to Liberty Institute.

The Facts

  • Pastor Thomas Le started PVBC in 2003, with a small group of individuals, some who had fled religious persecution in Vietnam. With a growing membership, Pastor Le and his congregation began looking for a new location, eventually deciding on an abandoned church near downtown Plano, Texas.
  • Although the group followed all proper procedures, and even though the building had been used as a church in the past, the city denied the congregation a certificate of occupancy because the property did not meet the 2-acre site requirement for houses of worship in residential areas – the site was 1.2 acres.
  • Liberty Institute stepped in to represent Pastor Le and the congregation in seeking a variance to the city’s 2-acre rule, which only applied to houses of worship.
  • Texas State District Judge Greg Brewer ultimately overturned the decision of Plano’s Board of Adjustment, finding that the city’s denial of the variance was illegal and an abuse of discretion. As result, Pastor Le and his congregation are able to hold services in their new building.

Cases like this are becoming more frequent, as local governments seek to impose more and more arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions and limitations on churches. It is concerned Americans like you that help us continue our fight to defend and restore religious liberty in the U.S. Please share this information with your friends and family, pray with us, and donate now!


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