Liberty Baptist Church Files Lawsuit Against Crawford County

PITTSBURG, KS.--- For the past two years, the congregation at Liberty Baptist Church has been meeting at the pastor's home.

"It's the only place we have, and it's not adequate for what we need," said Sandy Stallings, Liberty Baptist Church Pastor.

In 2013, the congregation purchased the land at 1719 West 20Th Street in Pittsburg to build a new church. However, decisions by the county commission are stopping them from breaking ground.

"The Zoning Board approved us, all the entities in the county, agencies that had anything to do with it approved of us building a church. And only stopped when we got to the county commissioners, and that happened twice," said Pastor Stallings. 

The congregation submitted two applications to the commissioners for a permit for the building. The first application was denied in 2013, citing concerns about traffic, the size of the congregation, and surrounding homes. The second application was denied this year for the same reasons, and this denial came following objections from land owners near the property.

"I think it had everything to do with politics, and had nothing to do with anything else," Pastor Stallings explained. 

To move forward with building the church, the pastor has filed a lawsuit with the federal court citing religious discrimination.

"The first amendment guarantees our right to worship, and we want to worship at 1714 West 20th. And we don't want the government to deter us from doing what we know that we have a right to do," said Pastor Stallings. 

All of the county commissioners and the county attorney declined to comment on the matter. However, legal representation for the church says the county can respond to the lawsuit before it goes to court.

"The ball is in the county's court, and we're hoping that we'll be able to work something out. If we can't and the county wants to dig in and expend a lot of its resources, and pull its funds to fight this, then that's what we're prepared to do," said Noel Sterett, Liberty Baptist Church's attorney.

The pastor says he will not let the commissioners' decision stop him from building the church.

"Whatever it takes, we're going to pursue it until we build our church out there," said Pastor Stallings. 

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