County Pays $75K To Music Church

The founder of a non-denominational music church in Pennsylvania whose services include jam band concerts has been given the go-ahead to continue hosting a limited number of events on his property under a settlement with the county in which he resides.

Following a years-long legal battle with Fayette County, Church Of Universal Love And Music founder William Pritts can now hold six weekend concerts (Friday through Sunday) and six additional Saturday concerts annually, according to the terms of the agreement filed in a Pittsburgh federal court.

The agreement also stipulates Pritts must fence off the concert area, limit attendance to 1,500, hire security for the events and designate areas for camping and parking. Illegal drugs and nudity are banned and music must stop by 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 9 p.m. on Sundays.

The county will also pay Pritts and his attorneys $75,000 in the settlement, which reportedly includes language that denies Fayette County violated the church founder’s religious rights.

Pritts filed a $1 million suit against the county in 2006 claiming religious discrimination after being told to pull the plug on shows at his 147-acre property outside Pittsburgh in 2005.

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

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 frowns upon the act of bogarting joints at a concert.

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

“We’re making arrangements for volunteers to visit old-age homes and hospitals to get the church more involved in the community and dispel any doubts the zoning board and the neighbors have about [the church’s] good faith,” Pritts attorney Gregory Koerner said.

Pritts reportedly already has plans in the works for a June 20 concert featuring North Indiana All Stars and Umphrey’s McGee.