City Admits Ordinance Discrimination Against Mississippi Church Violates Federal Law
HOLLY SPRINGS, Miss., Liberty Institute vows to continue defense of Opulent Life Church after the City of Holly Springs surprisingly announced it amended its discriminatory ordinance last night —less than 24 hours before oral arguments began at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, La. After conceding that their original city zoning ordinance violated federal law, opposing counsel representing the City advised the Court that the City had adopted yet another discriminatory ordinance that continues to prohibit the church from occupying space on the town square. Opposing counsel conceded that the Fifth Circuit now can decide the validity of the new ordinance.
Liberty Institute anticipates the Fifth Circuit will request additional briefing on the legality of the new ordinance, so the Court can rule on whether it also violates federal law and the First Amendment.
“We will continue to defend the religious liberty rights of Opulent Life Church against the City of Holly Springs’ new ordinance that is as discriminatory as, if not worse than, the original ordinance, “said Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute’s Director of Litigation. “Churches should be able to grow and expand free from discrimination. Placing special burdens on them is unfair, unconstitutional and illegal,”
Then, Sasser added, “The City appears to be making good on the statement its counsel made to the U.S. Magistrate Judge that it will never allow a church on the town square.”
In the case Opulent Life Church; Telsa DeBerry v. City of Holly Springs, Mississippi, the Church sought to move to a new space in the town square area of Holly Springs, Miss. Due to zoning restrictions, the city told the church it must get the approval of 60 percent of local property owners and the city’s mayor before it can exist in the downtown area. This ordinance only applied to churches. Businesses and other groups were not subject to this requirement.
In January 2012, Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit on behalf of Opulent Life Church and its pastor, Telsa DeBerry, and sought a preliminary injunction, which the federal district court unfortunately denied. In March 2012, Liberty Institute filed an appeal, arguing that the city’s zoning ordinance unfairly singles out churches, and asking the court to reverse the lower court’s decision.
- Mississippi church challenges city zoning ordinance (jurist.org)
- Miss. Congregation Fights Town Square Church Ban (abcnews.go.com)
Posted on August 10, 2012, in Church & State and tagged Holly Springs Mississippi, Liberty Institute, Opulent Life Church, United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.