The Town of Edisto Beach in South Carolina is standing its ground. The problem is that the ground on which it is standing is unconstitutional.
Edisto Beach officials have blocked a local church, Redeemer Fellowship of Edisto Island, from renting space in the community civic center on the same terms as other groups.
Redeemer Fellowship had rented space at the civic center two times earlier this year without problem. When the church requested another rental agreement with the center, however, the town attorney claimed that it would appear as if the town were “establishing a religion” if it allowed the church to worship at the civic center.
But that is ridiculous.
Edisto Beach allows a number of groups to rent space at the civic center, for a wide range of events. Just because a church rents space available to everyone else in the community does not mean the town is “establishing a religion.” No one is forced to attend Redeemer Fellowship’s service, and the church pays its rent, just like any other group.
Treating churches the same as secular groups is not giving them any sort of advantage – it’s just fair.
Still, Edisto Beach officials are not budging. In response to an Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawsuit, city officials have defended their discriminatory policy, arguing that they have not violated the Constitution.
Supreme Court precedent says otherwise.
ADF represented Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia before the Supreme Court in 2017. The State of Missouri had blocked Trinity Lutheran from receiving a grant to resurface its playground. The grant program was open to all nonprofits in the state of Missouri. Yet, because the playground is operated by a church, the state denied them the grant.
Thankfully, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Trinity Lutheran, making it clear that the government cannot treat religious people and organizations worse than everyone else.
The same is true here.
That’s why the ADF Church Alliance is representing Redeemer Fellowship. The government should never be permitted to treat people of faith as second-class citizens – barring them from benefits that others receive simply because they are religious.
The ADF Church Alliance was created for cases and issues just like this – where government officials are threatening the constitutional rights of churches. It is an affordable membership program that prepares, advises, and even litigates on behalf of churches as the legal culture tests the limits of religious freedom.
Members of the ADF Church Alliance receive:
- Legal review of church bylaws and policies that relate to protecting the church’s religious liberty;
- Direct access to attorneys to answer your questions about protecting the church’s religious liberty;
- Consultation for legal issues involving the church’s religious liberty (prior to litigation);
- Legal representation in cases involving the church’s religious liberty (e.g., employment, land use, tax exemption, church member discipline/removal, requests to use church facilities, government mandates or unconstitutional regulation, volunteer requirements, equal access to government property or benefits, and clergy confidentiality); and
- Specialized resources such as webinars and newsletters tailored to protecting the religious liberty of the Church.
Visit the Church Alliance website to learn more about how your church can become a member.