Pastor Howard Kaloogian founded Grace New England Church in his home as a church plant in Weare, New Hampshire. This new church ministry, backed by Grace International out of Houston, Texas, attracts around a dozen or more like-minded believers who meet in his home for bible studies and prayer meetings—in church in the largest room of his home, the renovated barn. Like many home owners, Pastor Kaloogian welcomes people in his home and occasionally holds social gatherings for invited guests. On one occasion he hosted a meet-and-greet for Robert F. Kennedy Jr., with hundreds in attendance. To accommodate the crowds, he used all available space on his property including his barn.

In October of 2023, he received a “Cease and Desist” notice from the Town of Weare stating, “you are to immediately stop and assembly regarding Grace New England Church. This Cease and Desist will remain in effect until a site plan is submitted, reviewed and there is a decision made by the Town Planning Board.” Until he committed the lengthy and expensive site plan process, the Town would not allow him to hold church services on his property.

The Town also warned Pastor Kaloogian that unless he was in full compliance of the order, penalties would apply. The cease and desist letter indicated that he could face fines ranging from $275 to $500 per day for holding religious gatherings in his home.

While other homes in the area hold social gatherings such as, Super Bowl parties, poker games, and book clubs, Pastor Kaloogian is being targeted for the religious nature of his small group gatherings. The Town’s actions discriminate on the basis of religion against the Church and hinder Grace New England from the free exercise of its religious freedom granted in the First Amendment and protected by federal law.

In February 2024, First Liberty filed a federal lawsuit against the Town of Weare, claiming that the Town is violating federal law and the U.S. Constitution by blocking the church from meeting.

“Hundreds of thousands of Americans meet every day in homes for prayer meetings, Bible studies, book clubs, card games, and other gatherings,” said Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel at First Liberty. “Why would Weare city officials stop this small, Christian congregation from legally doing likewise?”

Social Facebook Social Instagram Twitter X Icon | First Liberty Institute Social Youtube Social Linkedin

Terms of UsePrivacy PolicyState DisclosuresSitemap • © 2024 Liberty Institute® is a trademark of First Liberty Institute