In a bizarre court battle, a South Carolina judge has ruled that a Black church in the state is now the owner of a store that sells Ku Klux Klan paraphernalia.
New Beginnings Baptist Church in Laurens, S.C. won the ruling after years of trying to gain access to the property, a former movie theater, that houses The Redneck Store, where KKK paraphernalia is sold..
The property was sold to the church in 1997 by a reformed Klansman but a clause in the deed allows the store to be operated until the death of its manager, a former grand wizard of the Klan who once owned the building but sold it to the reformed Klansman.
The sale occurred after the property owner, Michael Burden, had a falling out with the Klan and a personal dispute over a woman with the building’s former owner. He also “developed a spiritual relationship” with the church and sold the property to New Beginnings for $1,000, according to court documents.
Still, according to Rev. David Kennedy, minister at the church, the fight for control of the property has been difficult and sometimes ugly.
“They placed Confederate flags on the door I entered the church in and we found dead cats, snakes, broken windows,” Kennedy told WFAE radio in Charlotte, N.C.
The store is currently operated by John Howard, a former grand wizard of the KKK. He originally sold the land to fellow Klansman Michael Burden, but Burden left Klan after having a change of heart and sold the property to New Beginnings.
Howard, who still operates the store, won’t comment on the ruling but said he doesn’t understand what the fuss is all about. “If anything turns people off, they shouldn’t come in here,” Howard told The Associated Press in 2008. “It’s not a thing in here that’s against the law.”
In addition to handing over ownership of the store to New Beginnings, the judge also ordered Burden and Howard to pay the church’s legal fees.