A church in the town of Edisto Beach, South Carolina has won a legal fight and will now be allowed to hold worship services at the town's civic center.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the non-profit religious freedom legal organization representing the church had filed a federal lawsuit citing the town's discriminatory actions against Redeemer Fellowship of Edisto Island.
The church had rented the Edisto Beach Civic Center for Sunday worship on several occasions, but then the town council voted to reject their application and banned all religious worship services at the facility.
The lawsuit indicates that another church had been renting a room for several years, and that the church used the civic center room for church office space, meetings, Bible studies, and religious training.
Also other members of the community had rented space at the civic center for baptism celebrations.
"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."
Shortly after the lawsuit was filed in August 2018, the US Department of Justice filed a statement of interest supporting the church.
The Town's ban on "religious worship services" at the Civic Center constitutes viewpoint discrimination. By its own admission, the Town allows other forms of religious speech to take place in the Civic Center, including "meetings" by "churches and other religious groups and organizations...to teach religion, read from and discuss the Bible or other religious works, advocate religious views, sing hymns, and engage in prayer."
Both parties agreed to end the lawsuit and the town of Edisto Beach will pay Redeemer Fellowship over $3,000 in damages.
"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," Holcomb added.