Music Church Can Continue Concerts

A years-long dispute between a Pennsylvania “church” founder, whose services include jam band concerts, and the county in which he resides has ended in settlement just before the case was set to go to trial.

Church Of Universal Love And Music founder William Pritts filed a $1 million suit against Fayette County in 2006, claiming religious discrimination after being told to pull the plug on concerts at his 147-acre property outside Pittsburgh in 2005.

Pritts had applied for permits to build a stage and host events on the land in 2001. The county banned the events soon after, citing zoning violations, and alleged Pritts’ operation was a sham as he hadn’t claimed to run a church until after his permits were rejected by the county.

Fayette County’s zoning board found the church “failed to meet the burden of proof to establish approval of the request,” and “did not meet the threshold for the proposed use in accordance with the definitions and words contained in the religious use statute ‘in accordance with their customary meanings,’” according to documents obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

However, in court, Pritts called his church nondenominational, and said it welcomed everyone, the paper reported.
“[There are] members in our church from different religions and backgrounds,” he said. “There’s atheists. There’s agnostics, Muslims and all of the religions, basically, because we are drawing from a broad spectrum and trying to put the larger picture: ‘We live on Earth. We are going to have to share it.’”

Attorneys for the county had hoped to show a segment from a 2003 interview Pritts did with “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” in court. In the clip, Pritts says “God never said you can’t party on” and criticizes the act of bogarting joints at a concert.

The judge overseeing the case decided the clip was heavily edited and unfairly prejudicial.

The details of the settlement, which is reportedly “mutually satisfactory” for all parties, allow Pritts to continue hosting concerts at the site.