Background

Philemon Homes was a nonprofit, faith-based organization that provided housing and religious instruction to petty offenders released from state custody. Established in 1998, the facility was operated by Pastor Richard Barr and located in Sinton, Texas.

The City of Sinton imposed no restrictions on Philemon Homes when it first began, but in 1999, the city council enacted an ordinance that banned the organization from existing anywhere within the city limits. The City took this drastic action even though no one ever complained about the ministry and a majority of the citizens polled by the city council voted in favor of allowing Philemon Homes to continue.

First Liberty Makes Texas History with Victory at Texas Supreme Court

After a trial court and appeals court sided with the City, First Liberty Institute represented Pastor Barr and Philemon Homes before the Texas Supreme Court, arguing that the City’s ordinance banning Philemon Homes from existing in the city limits violated the TRFRA. Passed in 1999, the TRFRA provides much needed protection for people of faith, churches, and faith-based organizations. First Liberty’s defense of Pastor Barr and Philemon Homes was the first case in Texas history to apply the TRFRA, which has since been used as a nationwide model in protecting religious freedom.

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