At the advisement of a local judge, a Port Arthur church voted on Oct. 5 on whether or not to fire its felon pastor, who allegedly hid his criminal past and misused church funds.

The congregation of First Sixth Street Baptist Church voted 137 to 110 to fire Rev. Donald Toussaint, possibly ending the church board's civil suit in Jefferson County District Court, plaintiff's attorney Langstan Adams told the Southeast Texas Record.

"There really was no winner in this," Adams said. "Church relationships will be permanently damaged because the pastor used his position of trust to manipulate the congregation."

As previously reported, on Sept. 8 David Joseph, chairman of the First Sixth Street Baptist Church, obtained a temporary restraining order against Toussaint. The TRO expired on Sept. 21 and the judge presiding over the case declined to renew it.

Toussaint, who changed his name from Abram to Toussaint after being convicted of robbery in 1982, was terminated as pastor by the church board on Aug. 30 at a church business meeting, court papers say.

However, during a Sept. 22 injunction hearing, Toussaint's attorney, David Bernsen, said that no announcement was made to the church congregation that the meeting would include a vote to remove Toussaint as pastor.

He said a small group of people "secretly" tried to remove Toussaint without informing "the body of Christ" in attempt to "hijack the church."

This time around, 247 church members out of approximately 300 voted.

The petition states that the congregation was unaware that Toussaint was charged with capital murder, kidnapping and armed robbery in 1982 for his role in the robbery of a convenience store, which ended in the deaths of two people.

Although he was originally sentenced to death on March 29, 1984, Toussaint's conviction was overturned and he accepted a plea agreement to armed robbery in 1992 and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Once Toussaint became pastor of First Sixth Street Baptist, he agreed to salary of $72,000 but asked that $50,000 of his salary be declared as a housing allowance in order to evade paying taxes, the petition alleges.

Adams argued that Toussaint's questionable use of church funds endangers the non-profit organization's tax-exempt status.

Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, is presiding over the civil suit.

Case No. E190-872

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