Nebraska church wins settlement to build new facility in village

Village of Walthill
Property in Walthill, Nebraska, where the Light of the World Gospel Ministries plans to build a new facility. In February 2022, the church won the right to construct the new worship space and other facilities on the property via a legal settlement. |

A Nebraska church will now be allowed to construct a multipurpose facility on property that a small town had previously prohibited them from building on. 

Light of the World Gospel Ministries, a small, multiethnic church, was previously denied a permit by the Village of Walthill to build a facility off Main Street that would be used as its new worship space.

In a turn of events, however, First Liberty Institute announced last week that the ministry will now be allowed to construct the building, thanks to a settlement reached with the village.

Roger Byron, senior counsel for FLI, which has been helping to represent the church since it began the building application process, supported the settlement that ended a legal battle that began in 2018.

“The church is pleased with the settlement and grateful to the Village officials for working with the church to reach a fair agreement,” said Byron in a statement emailed to The Christian Post on Monday.

Paul Malcomson, Light of the World's pastor, said the congregation is "grateful that we can now bring the light and love of Jesus to our community and help revitalize our town."

"We just want to live in peace, worship and serve our neighbors," he said.

Malcomson continued: "What we're trying to do is breathe life into this community both spiritually and economically. Our heart is not to fight the politicians; our heart is to work with the politicians and with them to see this community turned around."

A congregation of about 100 people in a village of around 800, Light of the World had been meeting in a former funeral home when it decided that it needed a new worship space.

The church had initially purchased multiple buildings off Main Street with the intention of tearing them down to build a new facility to meet their needs, as well as a couple of small businesses, according to FLI. 

In July 2018, after village officials denied multiple permits related to the construction off Main Street or having existing permits revoked, the church decided to file a lawsuit.  

Village lawyer Matt Munderloh told ABC News affiliate KCAU 9 in Sioux City, Iowa, that the church’s requests violated local zoning laws, which were in keeping with state and federal regulations.

In February 2020, the U.S. Justice Department filed a suit against Walthill. Siding with the church, the government argued that the village had violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act when it denied the church a permit.

“Treating places of worship less favorably than nonreligious assemblies is unlawful discrimination against religious exercise,” stated Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division in a 2020 press release.

“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that governments do not deny congregations their federally protected right to exercise their faith through construction of places of worship.”

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