Christian Fellowship Center Wins Right To Use Property As Church

Christian Fellowship Center Wins Right To Use Property As Church

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The Christian Fellowship Center has reached an agreement with the Village of Canton which will allow the religious group to use property it purchased at 25 Court Street as a church, according to the Christian Fellowship Center's lawyers.

For months, the village and the Christian Fellowship Center have engaged in a pitched legal battle over whether the former restaurant "The Club" at 25 Court Street could be used as a church. The village claimed zoning law did not allow it; the group claimed it was being discriminated against.

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Fellowship Center attorneys wrote the village board agreed to the settlement Monday night. "The settlement will allow the Church to continue meeting at its property at 25 Court Street and require the Village to pay attorneys fees, the majority of which will be paid by the Village through its insurance company," according to the statement.

“We are very thankful to the Village for recognizing our right to use 25 Court Street as a church, and we are grateful for opportunities to make humble appeals to proper authorities," Jamie Sinclair, pastor of the Fellowship, said in the statement.

"Although our civil right to worship in this building has been debated for months, the justice system has been faithful to this essential liberty. With this matter permanently resolved, we are eagerly exploring the best ways to use this building as we continue to proclaim the truth that there is forgiveness, hope, and life in Jesus Christ."

Lawyers for the Fellowship Center said the settlement included "a modest amount of attorney’s fees and damages."

For its part, village officials said they have agreed to pay $60,000 to the Christian Fellowship Center for legal fees and damages.

Why did the village settle? It had already lost once when U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Kahn prohibited the village from enforcing its zoning law.

"Although we appealed Judge Kahn's decision, based on thoughtful legal counsel and after a great deal of consideration, the Board determined that continuing this action in the face of Judge Kahn's directive and anticipated future rulings would not serve the Village's interests," Mayor Michael Dalton said in a statement.

"This has been a long and arduous process, but we felt we had to consider the long term best interests of the Village - its residents and taxpayers," Dalton said.

"The case is closed and we will move on. The Village Board and staff remain focused on ensuring that Canton is a thriving place for all who live and work here," Dalton said.

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