By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
HOLLY SPRINGS – Opulent Life Church can stay on the Square in Holly Springs.
Hiram Sasser, litigation director for the Liberty Institute, which represented Opulent Life and Pastor Telsa DeBerry, said the church and the City of Holly Springs have reached a settlement in their yearlong litigation that kept the church from occupying the storefront it had leased.
The church contended that being forced to stay in smaller rented space away from downtown limited its ability to grow and interfered with its religious mission.
The city’s zoning ordinance banned religious organizations from the Square without the permission of the mayor; officials argued that churches would interfere with parking and take away from the commercial purpose of the courthouse area.
“We are pleased the city finally relented in the face of a court order in the church’s favor to allow the church to exist on the town square,” Sasser said. “This case continues to set valuable precedent for churches across the country. Religious freedom is an inalienable right that should not be granted or prohibited at the whim of a single government official.”
Liberty Institute started legal intervention on the church’s behalf in January 2012. The U.S. District Court denied a preliminary injunction, but in September the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals declared the ordinance “plainly violated the Equal Terms Clause of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.”
U.S. District Judge Michael Mills ordered the city to “cease enforcement of its prohibition against religious organizations on the square.”