The pastor of a predominately Black church in Texas says he is being discriminated against after a local fire marshal slapped him with criminal charges over the brightness of the lights in his church’s parking lot.
Rev. Patrick Williams, who heads the Overflow Church in Manvel, Texas, said he and his wife were shocked when they learned they were facing a misdemeanor charge over something as simple as the parking lot lights.
“The lawyer said it’s a criminal charge,” Williams’ wife, Marilyn Williams, told the Houston Chronicle. “I couldn’t believe it.”
According to Marilyn Williams, the church had run into a slew of permitting issues with the new fire marshal Micheal Dumas, who is in charge of enforcing city ordinance violations in the small suburban Houston municipality. The misdemeanor charge seemed personal, however, so Marilyn Williams said she took it upon herself to do a little digging.
The pastor’s wife pulled up Dumas’ Facebook page where she found that one of his profile photos was of a Confederate flag, the newspaper reported.
“That is when I was like, OK, I get it,” Williams remembered thinking to herself.
Rev. Patrick Williams said the charges came three months after the parking lot lights had been altered to fix the problem, however, Dumas didn’t seem satisfied with the changes.
Last week, a jury found Patrick Williams not guilty of the charges against him. The pastor later argued that the city of Manvel does not have a lighting ordinance and that his church is the only one in the city that’s prohibited from shining a light off of its property.
“We are being harassed and discriminated against,” Williams said Sunday with the support of his congregation behind him.
Marilyn Williams agreed, saying, “If the policy is only for us, then that’s unfair.”
In a Facebook post, the church accused the city of changing its ordinances in an effort to personally attack Rev. Patrick Williams.
“There was an SUP submitted to Council and the documents was changed after the adoption so that they could file a criminal charges for parking lots lights against Pastor Pat (Personally) When there is no Light ordinance in Manvel and no other business has this language in their Special Use Permit,” the post read.
Marilyn Williams says the Overflow Church is the only predominantly African-American church in the city.