Battle for border wall goes on between Catholic Church, US government

By Bill Barajas - Reporter

MISSION, Texas - The battle over the border wall goes on in the Rio Grande Valley. 

The United States government and the Catholic Church are facing off in federal court over access to the property where the historic La Lomita chapel sits.

In December, KSAT reported about how La Lomita might find itself on the wrong side of the border wall. 

Father Roy Snipes was disappointed by a judge's decision to grant the U.S. government access to survey the historic La Lomita property in Mission, Texas.

Snipes has been with the Our Lady Of Guadalupe Catholic church for 25 years. La Lomita has been its mother church since 1865.

"I am worried, almost worried sick. The worst thing that will happen is it'll be a big, ugly, kind of obnoxious and obscene symbol -- the opposite of the symbol of Our Lady of Refuge, which is Our Lady of Liberty," Snipes said.

The court hearing between both sides was the first of many. It does not grant the government permission to build the wall.

"Their declaration of taking was for a limited purpose, which is to enter the property temporarily over a period of months, and we'll try to narrow it down, in order to survey take soil samples, do other testing to see where they intend to build the wall," said Mary McCord, lead counsel for the Archdiocese of Brownsville.

Snipes and the archdiocese agree that the wall goes against everything the church stands for and sends the wrong message to the faithful.

"We're hoping the government, frankly, will reconsider. Recognizing that a physical barrier that cuts off access to the chapel, not only to Father Roy and his parish but those that seek to worship there, is clearly a substantial burden on the exercise of religious freedom," McCord said.

The two sides are expected back in court to set the terms for surveying the land. The church wants to make sure no one worshiping at the site is interrupted during the process.

Copyright 2019 by KSAT - All rights reserved.