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North Texas City Threatens To Take Property From Church

DUNCANVILLE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - A small North Texas church is fighting back as the city of Duncanville attempts to seize their property using eminent domain.

"This is an empty lot that God gave us," said Angie Baker, wife of the pastor at Canaan Baptist Church.

The church has big dreams for the property on West Camp Wisdom Road in Duncanville. They have been raising money to build a new facility there for their congregation.

Canaan Baptist's current home is in south Dallas, but over the past 15 years, the church has created a ministry in Duncanville – even without a building.

"We do food drives, clothing drives, church activities," Baker said. "We feel like this community is underserved."

But now they say their ministry is being threatened.

"We have put so much into it, and we just don't want to lose it to the city," she said.

The city of Duncanville is seeking to seize the land through eminent domain.

Attorneys for the church filed a motion this week to stop that from happening, arguing for protections under the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

"In this particular case, it would require the city to prove that this property is the only property that they can use for their purposes, and it's going to be very difficult for them to prove that," said Keisha Russell, counsel at First Liberty Institute.

The city says it will utilize the property in plans it has developed to build a new fire station.

There is already one across the street from the church's lot.

"We just want the city to find another piece of property and build somewhere else, because we love the property that we've invested in," Baker said.

The city of Duncanville says the city attorney has received the church's motion to dismiss and will file a response with the court at the appropriate time.

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