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No LPFMs Granted for This Texas Mennonite Church Duo

Waco and Canton hopefuls lacked reasonable site assurance

Two Texas Mennonite churches had their LPFM applications dismissed this week by the FCC due to lack of reasonable antenna site assurance. Each applicant has ties to the Texas Mennonite Conference (TMC), a group which works with member churches across the state affiliated with the denomination.

In Waco, TMC applied for a station in the December 2023 LPFM window to transmit on 91.9 FM from an antenna placed on top of a pole from a West Waco Drive location. It hoped to use the station to produce locally-originated programming about the Mennonite faith.

In its application, TMC said it had reasonable site assurance for the location from the tower owner, which it identified as Joe Izen. The Media Bureau, however, assessed McCleenan County property records, which showed the property has been owned by Karen Cooley since April 2012. The commission deemed it a “non-curable” defect and dismissed TMC’s application.

Further East, in Canton, Texas, God’s Property Mennonite Fellowship Church, a TMC member, applied for an LPFM to transmit on 107.9 FM from Canton. It said that it had reasonable site assurance to transmit from a tower on property owned by Houston Mennonite Fellowship Church.

The commission initially granted the application but rescinded the grant in February. An informal objection from the city of Canton followed, asserting that a 2020 injunction prevented anyone from occupying or using the church property where the tower is located. The city also indicated that, because of the injunction, a different church owns the property.

[Related: “Henrietta, Texas, Won’t Get an LPFM Station“]

The city of Canton also noted a history of litigation against Barney Joe Donalson, the Bishop of TMC, regarding the property. It said that, because Donalson serves in a leadership role for TMC, he has an improperly disclosed stakeholder interest in all Mennonite churches across Texas. Among other supporting documents, the city included a notice of unlicensed operation issued by the commission to Donalson in 2018 for operating an FM station on 87.9 FM in Houston.

The church and city went back and forth, as God’s Property church responded, asserting that it does indeed own the property, providing a 2023 foreclosure deed from Houston Mennonite Church to a lender, which God’s Property Ministries stated it ultimately purchased.

Donalson also issued an opposition letter on behalf of TMC. He said the city’s concern of his stakeholder interest is akin to arguing “the Pope has a stakeholder interest in every Catholic church.” He stated that, as of Jan. 2, God’s Property Ministries bought the property in question.

The church finally amended its application on March 26, with its new desired antenna location being “at the top of a 50-year-old pine tree.”

The commission sided with the city of Canton. It found that “the station’s proposed antenna site was not available for the construction and operation of the station at the time” of the application filing. It concurred with the court injunction against all use of the property and said it does not believe “the property can be considered legally available until the injunction has been lifted.”

Thus, God’s Property church’s LPFM application was also dismissed. It desired the Canton signal to broadcast church services and secular music.

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