First Liberty Institute has reached a "favorable settlement" with the Village of Walthill, Nebraska, on behalf of Light of the World Gospel Ministries, a small, multi-ethnic church in the village.
With a growing congregation of more than 100 people, the church purchased several old buildings directly across the street from its current meeting place, hoping to tear down the deteriorating structures and build a church and related facilities to serve the community. After the Village revoked or denied numerous permits, the church filed a federal lawsuit in 2018.
"It's the church's sincere belief that God directed them to have a church building within the Village of Walthill to use for worship and to minster to the community," says attorney Roger Byron of First Liberty Institute. "[Now the church] will transform dilapidated and undeveloped property into a new space to serve all village residents."
In 2020, the U.S Department of Justice filed a separate lawsuit against the Village.
"We're grateful to the U.S. Department of Justice for all their help in this matter, and we're very grateful to the village and the village officials for working with us to reach this settlement," says Byron.
"It's not uncommon for religious bodies or churches to have religious land use issues with either counties or municipalities," the attorney explains. "It became so prevalent that a few years ago, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act was enacted by Congress to see to this very thing."
Light of the World has been meeting in a converted funeral home on Main Street.