Georgia Church Faces Potential Lawsuit Over 19,000-Bulb LED Sign

(Photo: Eric Blair)The sign for Fellowship Baptist Church of Grovetown, Georgia.

A church in Georgia that recently setup a large LED-lit sign on its property might face a lawsuit for being in violation of a local ordinance.

Fellowship Baptist Church in Grovetown has refused to take down the 19,000-bulb sign, which was installed last Friday and advertises for both their church and a food pantry they oversee.

Sonny Serigney, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church, met with Grovetown Mayor George James III Thursday morning to possibly reach a compromise.

In an interview with The Christian Post, Serigney referred to the roughly half hour meeting with the Grovetown mayor as "amicable" in its tone.

"It was an amicable meeting, it was a good meeting. There was a proposal that was laid down to us. I would take it as a compromise," said Serigney.

"Basically, I think that the city and the mayor are looking for an amicable compromise that would help this city and also help us as well," he explained.

Serigney told CP that what the compromise "would entail would be moving the sign" about 130 feet so that it "is actually out of the city limits and into the county."

Serigney added that he agrees with the compromise, but will bring the issue before the congregation this coming Sunday to get their feedback on the matter.

According to Grovetown ordinance Article VI, Section 6.132 C, churches are allowed to have signs that do not exceed 24 square feet.

However, LED signs are a different matter, as they are not allowed to be more than 16 square feet, making the large sign legally dubious.

Frank Neal, spokesman for the city of Grovetown, told CP that the ordinance in question was adopted in 2012.

"LED signs are not permitted within the city limits as of the passage of a sign ordinance that was adopted," said Neal, adding that the sign "also exceeded the size limits allowed."

"The city has offered a variety of alternatives to solve this problem and we are continuing to work with the church to resolve this issue."

Last month, when Fellowship Baptist Church attempted to make a formal request to put the sign up, the Grovetown city government rejected the sign, according to WRDW-TV news.

"After weeks of back and forth, the pastor decided it was time. He took down the old one and began installing the new large LED sign," reported WRDW.

"City workers then issued a cease and desist notice that stated there wasn't a building permit and it did not meet code compliance."

Serigney told CP that part of the controversy stemmed from him and his congregation being unaware that such an ordinance for church LED signs existed.

"I don't think they even heard anything we said, they just made a decision and denied us a sign," said Serigney.

"We felt that was a violation of our separation of church and state, and so we went ahead and told them to deliver the sign and put it up."