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Texas City Reverses Decision, Allows Christian Ministry to Hold Monthly Bible Study

A Christian ministry resource center recently achieved victory against the city of Plano, Texas, after being told it could no longer hold monthly Bible studies due to a city ordinance.

The Agape Resource and Assistance Center, Inc. previously received a cease-and-desist letter from the city of Plano indicating that it could no longer hold its monthly Bible studies at any of its several ministry homes because the large gathering violated the city ordinance that no more than eight people may seek shelter in one home.

The center's monthly Bible studies and counseling sessions were angled at providing community to women and children in need. Although the Agape Resource and Assistance Center does obey the city ordinance by not allowing more than eight people to live in any of their ministry homes, they were reportedly in violation for holding their three-hour, monthly Bible studies at the same residences.

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.

"It has come to the [city's] attention that the aforementioned Notice was issued in error and should therefore be disregarded," O'Banner wrote in the response letter.

"As previously conveyed, the City of Plano appreciates Agape Resource & Assistance Center for services rendered to citizens in need," O'Banner added. "Please accept our apology for the misunderstanding."

Sasser stated that the Liberty Institute is "pleased the city acted quickly to rescind the ban on Agape and offer its support for this much needed ministry for women and children in crisis."

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