EDISTO BEACH, S.C. – A lawsuit that Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed last year on behalf of a South Carolina church has prompted the town of Edisto Beach to lift its ban against worship services at the town’s civic center. In light of that, both parties filed their agreement to end the lawsuit Monday.
Redeemer Fellowship of Edisto Island rented the Edisto Beach Civic Center for Sunday worship on two occasions, but after the church proposed another rental agreement, the town council voted to reject the church’s application and amended the facility use guidelines to ban all rentals for “religious worship services.”
“Churches shouldn’t be treated less favorably than other groups that want to rent facilities,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “We commend Edisto Beach for lifting its ban, which was inconsistent with the town’s own statement that it welcomes ‘civic, political, business, social groups and others’ to use its civic center. Its previous policy that singled out one form of expression—worship—as inferior to other forms of speech was clearly unconstitutional. Redeemer Fellowship and its members have invested in the community for years, and we are pleased that the church will now receive fair treatment and equal access to the civic center.”
The lawsuit noted that another religious organization, an Episcopal church, has been renting a multi-purpose room for approximately five years, and that the church “uses the Civic Center room for church office space, Vestry meetings, Bible studies, and theological training.” In addition, other various members of the community have rented space for a wide variety of events including wedding, birthday, and baptism celebrations.
Shortly after the lawsuit began, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in the case in favor of the church. The lawsuit argued that the town’s previously amended guidelines were inconsistent and amounted to viewpoint discrimination—allowing some groups “to engage in singing, teaching, social interaction, and similar expressive activities” at the center while denying “access to those groups that engage in those same activities from a religious viewpoint.”
Matthew Gerrald, one of nearly 3,400 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel in the case, Redeemer Fellowship of Edisto Island v. Town of Edisto Beach, filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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