South Carolina town lifts ban against church renting civic center after DOJ backs congregation

A South Carolina church has dropped a federal lawsuit against the town of Edisto Island after it reversed a ban on using its civic center for worship services, according to local reports.

In April and May of 2018, the Redeemer Fellowship of Edisto Island began renting out the town's civic center, citing lack of room in its old meeting space, Live5 News reported Monday. But the town later rejected its rental application and banned all such rentals for religious worship services, according to a lawsuit filed by the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a statement of interest in support of the lawsuit in November.

“The United States’ statement of interest argues that far from being a justification for barring the church from the facility, the Constitution requires that churches be allowed to rent facilities on an equal basis with other community groups,” DOJ said in its statement.

New legal documents indicate the town reversed the ban in December and agreed to pay the church $3,112.85 in compensatory damages, as well as $50,000 in attorney fees and costs to the ADF.

“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,” ADF legal counsel Christiana Holcomb said in a statement this week.