The city of Sinton, Texas passed an ordinance that prevented a halfway house, ministry conducted by a pastor and ex-con, to run within 1,000 feet of any church. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.
In 1998, Pastor Richard Barr started a halfway house ministry in his hometown of Sinton, Texas. The idea was to offer housing, biblical instruction, and counseling to probationers and parolees as they prepared to transition back into civil society. For Pastor Barr, an ex-con himself, this was more than a ministry; this was personal.
Barr ran the in-home ministry to ex-cons from his own home, located just a few feet from his church in Sinton. Things were going smoothly until about a year later when the city passed an ordinance preventing halfway houses within 1,000 feet of any church, school, park, or residential area.
The City of Sinton, at the time, was less than 2.2 miles square consisting of less than 6,000 residents. There was no place else for Barr to run his ministry. The city fathers had literally run him out of town with this ordinance—a fact they were later to admit was intentional.
First Liberty Institute represented Pastor Barr and his ministry. We argued that the city violated the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act by substantially burdening his free exercise of religion without a compelling justification. The Texas Supreme Court agreed and invalidated the ordinance as to our client.
Barr’s case is yet another example of how a state’s RFRA protects a small ministry seeking to do good to his community from the overbearing hand of government.
To learn how First Liberty is protecting religious liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.