By Adiel Kaplan, David Mora, Maya Miller, and Andrew R. Calderon
When a small South Carolina town decided against renting its civic center to a Baptist church, town officials did not expect a confrontation with the Trump administration.
Edisto Beach, a vacation community with a year-round population of 600, leased its civic center twice last year to Redeemer Fellowship. But town officials worried that continuing the arrangement might signal that the local government endorsed a religion, a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state, according to town meeting minutes.
The congregation of Redeemer Fellowship saw the situation differently. In August, it sued in federal court, alleging religious discrimination. Three months later, the U.S. Justice Department stepped in, siding with the church and asking a judge to rule against Edisto Beach. A lawyer for the town, Drew Butler, was surprised, but perhaps he should have expected it.
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