An Illinois church involved in a dispute with its city government recently got a boost from Fruitland Baptist Church in Hendersonville.
A mission team from Fruitland went in July to Carlinville, Ill., to help Carlinville Southern Baptist Church transform an old Wal-Mart building into a ministry center. The building was at the center of a lawsuit that the church and city reportedly settled Sept. 16.
The building was not zoned for worship. The church bought it, hoping to obtain a permit to hold services there. The city declined because it didn't want the building off the tax rolls.
The church filed a federal suit saying its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights had been violated. The suit also said the city is violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).
RLUIPA prohibits zoning laws that treat churches or other religious assemblies or institutions on less than equal terms with nonreligious institutions, according to the U.S. Department of Justice web site.
The church and the city's insurance carrier settled the suit, according to a report in the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill. Under the terms of the settlement the church can hold services in the building in October and will get $165,000 to pay for its legal expenses.
The church was renovating the building while the issue was still up in the air. Fruitland's mission team of 64 people was one of four crews to work on the church over the summer.
Baptists from Alabama and Kentucky had set metal studs in the walls of the 60,000-square-foot building. They also hung some of the Sheetrock.
The Fruitland group hung about 400 sheets of 12-foot drywall. Much of it was in the sanctuary and foyer area where the walls are 20-30 feet high. The Fruitland team also used 48 buckets of mud and more than 40 gallons of paint.
In addition to working on the building, Fruitland team members held a soccer camp for elementary aged children. An average of 25 attended.
Fruitland pastor Michael Smith said this summer's trip was his church's second to Carlinville.
Three years ago, the church was planning to go help the Illinois church renovate a strip mall it was about to buy. That deal fell through but the team went anyway, working on the church's existing location and helping repair homes in the area.
"We just worked all over town," Smith said. "God used that."
Smith said the Wal-Mart building gives the church twice as much space as it would have had in the other location for about half of what it was going to pay.
"It's going to be quite a facility when they get finished," he said.