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Addison City Council Unanimously Approves Special Use Permit for African-American Church Founded by Freed Slaves

December 5, 2023

News Release
 For Immediate Release: 12.5.23
Contact: John Manning,
Direct: 972-941-4453

Addison City Council Unanimously Approves Special Use Permit for African-American Church Founded by Freed Slaves

Neighbor complaints about church founded by freed slaves more than 150 years ago stalled approval for zoning permits.

Addison, TX—The City Council of Addison (TX) last night unanimously approved a zoning application for White Rock Chapel, a historic church founded by freed slaves in 1884. The Texas Historical Commission designated the chapel a historic site 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, Associate with McDermott Will and Emery LLP, said.  “We are thrilled that the chapel will be free to continue to serve its community.”

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

Dr. Don Wesson of White Rock Chapel said, “We are excited to have this issue settled and to continue being a good community member, neighbor, and civic partner.”

White Rock 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.  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.


About First Liberty Institute
First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.
To arrange an interview, contact John Manning at or by calling 972-941-4453.

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