Catholic Church in Texas Challenges Trump’s Border Wall
Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection defends church’s right to oppose construction of border wall on its land
WASHINGTON, D.C., December 31, 2018 — Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) has today filed a supplemental brief on behalf of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, opposing the government’s request for access onto Diocese-owned property in preparation for building the U.S. border wall. Under current plans, the proposed border wall in Hidalgo County, Texas, would be built in part on land owned by the Diocese, and it would leave the historic La Lomita Chapel in the enforcement zone on the south side of the border wall, separated from the community that worships there.
The brief, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, McAllen Division, argues that the wall is fundamentally inconsistent with Catholic values and would substantially burden the free exercise of religion by preventing or restricting access to La Lomita Chapel, a sacred site to the Valley’s Catholic community.
“ICAP is honored to take on this worthy cause of protecting a cherished local religious institution from government overreach,” said Mary McCord, senior litigator at ICAP. “The government’s proposal to build the wall across this land, effectively cutting off the La Lomita Chapel from those who worship there, would put an unwarranted and unnecessary burden on the Church’s exercise of religious beliefs.”
Built in 1899, La Lomita Chapel has long been an integral place of worship for the Catholic community in the Rio Grande Valley. For over 20 years, on Palm Sunday, hundreds of parishioners have undertaken a four-mile procession from Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Mission, Texas, to the chapel, where the parish priests hear confessions and the parish celebrates as a community.
On behalf of the Diocese, ICAP’s brief argues that the proposed wall is the antithesis of “the human solidarity that Catholic moral teaching requires,” and instead “reflects the view that humanity is not a community of mutual responsibilities, but instead is divided into camps of ‘us’ and ‘them.’” The brief further argues that the proposed wall would substantially interfere with the community’s worship at La Lomita Chapel and that, even if a gate in the wall were to permit access to the chapel, individual worshipers, particularly those of Latino descent, would be forced to weigh their right to religious expression with the risk of being stopped, questioned, or detained by the Government when using La Lomita Chapel.
“I believe that the proposed border wall is contrary to the faith in practice of the Catholic Church and would substantially burden the exercise of religion at La Lomita Chapel,” said Bishop Daniel E. Flores, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, Texas. “I also believe that, if I were to consent to any actions that would culminate in the construction of the wall, I would be facilitating an activity that I view to be contrary to my religious and moral obligations as the head of the Diocese.”
ICAP joins local Brownsville, TX, attorney David C. Garza, of Garza and Garza, L.L.P., in representing the Diocese in this matter.