Texas diocese says border wall on Church land violates religious freedom

Border Marker at San Ysidro. CNA file photo.
Border Marker at San Ysidro. CNA file photo.

.- The Diocese of Brownsville, Texas is pushing back against a government effort to use Church property to aid in the construction of the border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

David Garza, a lawyer for the diocese in South Texas, told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that “it goes against the First Amendment, freedom of religion.”

The federal government has informed the dioceses that it plans to survey an estimated 67 acres of property where La Lomita Mission, is located near the Rio Grande, the Caller-Times reported. Some or all of the land may be confiscated through eminent domain for the construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

A statement from the diocese said that Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville has already entered into several discussions with government officials regarding two properties owned by the diocese in Hidalgo County.

“While the bishop has the greatest respect for the responsibilities of the men and women involved in border security, in his judgment, church property should not be used for the purposes of building a border wall,” read the statement.

“Such a structure would limit the freedom of the Church to exercise her mission in the Rio Grande Valley, and would in fact be a sign contrary to the Church's mission. Thus, in principle, the bishop does not consent to use church property to construct a border wall.”

Garza argued that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security should not be able to confiscate the diocese’s property. He said the land is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a public place of worship.

“La Lomita Chapel is a sacred building destined for divine worship to which the faithful have a right of access for divine worship, especially its public exercise,” he said, according to the Caller-Times.

Originally built in 1865 by Oblate Missionaries, La Lomita was the half-way point between the cities of Roma and Brownsville. A flood destroyed the original chapel building, but it was rebuilt in 1899. According to the National Parks Service, La Lomita was a major contributor to the foundation of Mission, the surrounding town.

Tags: Immigration, Catholic News, Border wall, Diocese of Brownsville, US-Mexico Border