Church pastor fights city for fair treatment

Church pastor fights city for fair treatment
Pastor DeBerry wants to relocate Opulent Life Church to the town square
Pastor DeBerry wants to relocate Opulent Life Church to the town square

(WMC-TV) - A Holly Springs church is looking to relocate to the town square, but the pastor says the city is making the move difficult.  Now, the pastor says he just wants his organization to be treated like any liquor store.

Opulent Life Church opened its doors in 2011. The pastor says their battle began with the city once they started looking to expand.

"There are cigarettes and beer stores. It seems like every facet of business is welcome there except for the church," said Opulent Life Church Pastor Tesla DeBerry.

Pastor DeBerry says the city of Holly Springs has explicitly singled out "churches" from the town square.

"It's the citizens of Holly Springs who are also being deprived of a worship center in a place of our choosing," said Pastor DeBerry.

In 2011, DeBerry says he signed a lease for a building located in the historic square, but learned a city ordinance would require 60 percent approval from property owners in a 1300 foot radius.

DeBerry challenged the ordinance and says on the eve of oral arguments, the city made an amendment that completely banned churches from the square.

Action News 5's Jerica Phillips went by city hall to ask about the specific ban on churches. A city clerk said the mayor would not comment on pending litigation.

"The mission of the church is to reach people with the truth and the love of Jesus Christ," said DeBerry.

DeBerry says he also wants answers. He says part of the church's plan to relocate in the square targeted students of neighboring Rust College.

"We love them, we want to reach out to them, and we want to be in a place where the students can walk to," he said.

DeBerry won an appeal in a federal court and is now waiting on a decision from the federal district.

"We're doing this for the good of the city. So our hope and our desire is to only benefit and to be positive, to be progressive, to be beneficial to the city and all of its citizens," said DeBerry.

Pastor DeBerry says he hopes to have a resolution soon. The federal district courts are expected to rule on the injunction sometime this week.

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