A church that has held Sunday worship service at a public housing apartment complex for the elderly for more than a decade must stop, according to the Dallas Housing Authority.
The church services violate the constitutional separation of church and state and the city housing authority's contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funds public housing programs, DHA President MaryAnn Russ told The Dallas Morning News for a story published Thursday.
Lake Highlands United Methodist Church has held services at Audelia Manor for 14 years.
Some residents who live at the complex and attend the services were upset by the housing authority's decision.
"A lot of us are older people," said resident Myrna Hardy, 84, who has attended the services since they began. "We've been to church all of our life, and we can't get out to go to other churches very easily."
Jerry Brown, a HUD spokesman based in Washington, D.C., said there may be a misunderstanding. The Fair Housing Act allows religious activity in common areas of public housing as long as it does not result in unequal treatment of residents, Brown said, adding that HUD would "like to chat" with the DHA.
The watchdog group Americans United for Separation of Church and State said it wasn't opposed to the church holding its services at the housing complex, as long as no federal funds were used, other religious groups could also hold services and residents were not forced to attend or subjected to unwanted proselytizing.
The Rev. Pamela Clark, a Lake Highlands United Methodist Church associate pastor, said she hopes to work out an agreement with Russ to allow the services to continue.
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com