COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — After a lengthy legal battle between a black South Carolina church and members of the Ku Klux Klan, a judge has ruled that the church owns a building where KKK robes and T-shirts are sold.
A circuit judge ruled last month that New Beginnings Baptist Church is the rightful owner of the building that houses the Redneck Shop which operates a so-called Klan museum and sells Klan robes and T-shirts emblazoned with racial slurs. The judge ordered the shop's proprietor to pay the church's legal bills of more than $3,300.
Since 1996, the Redneck Shop has operated in an old movie theater in Laurens, a city about 70 miles northwest from Columbia that was named after 18th century slave trader Henry Laurens.
Ownership of the building was transferred in 1997 to the Rev. David Kennedy and his church, New Beginnings, by a Klansman fighting with others inside the hate group, according to court records. That man, according to Kennedy, was feuding with store proprietor John Howard over a woman and “developed a spiritual relationship” with Kennedy's church, the judge wrote.
But a clause in the deed entitles Howard, formerly KKK grand dragon for the Carolinas, to operate his business in the building until he dies.
After years of trying to have the property inspected, Kennedy and New Beginnings sued Howard and others in 2008. On Dec. 9, a judge ruled in Kennedy's favor.