New Jerusalem Baptist Church Obtains Pro Bono Win that Preserves its Long-held Land

GDHM attorneys Bill Christian and Daniela Peinado Welsh secured a pro bono victory for the New Jerusalem Baptist Church. The Church has met in the Montopolis area for fifty years. But its religious organization property tax exemption was cancelled in 2016 after its building was condemned by the City of Austin. From the outset, GDHM attorneys resisted the assumption that “no building” meant “no church.” The Church was continuing to join in fellowship on the property for prayer services on Wednesdays and topical sermons on Sundays, and included in the Texas Property Tax Code’s definition of property is “land.”

After a series of appeals, Daniela convinced the Travis Appraisal Review Board to side with the Church for tax years 2021 and 2022, and she was prepared to serve as first-chair trial counsel on the preceding years. At stake was over $100,000 in taxes, more than the Church could afford. The Church’s story was featured in the Austin Chronicle last week – available here.

We are happy to report the story now has a happy ending. On the eve of an expert deposition and after a passionate negotiation, the Travis Central Appraisal District agreed to reinstate the Church’s religious organization property tax exemption for all prior tax years. The parties have submitted an agreed final judgment to the Court that grants the Church all the relief it originally requested. We are honored to have helped the Church preserve its legacy.