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SC Judge Says Black Church Owns Shop That Sells KKK Items

A judge in South Carolina has confirmed an African American church is the rightful owner of a store that sells Klan robes and racist materials. New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church is run out of a double-wide trailer in Laurens, South Carolina about 70 miles northwest of Columbia. The building next door is The Redneck Shop. It sells t-shirts and bumper stickers with racial slurs and Nazi items. The African American church bought the property in 1997 from a Klansman who had reformed. But it's had to fight to gain entry to it. New Beginning's minister David Kennedy says the fight was tough on his congregation. Most of them left the church, fearing reprisals. "They placed Confederate flags on the door I entered the church in and we found dead cats, snakes, broken windows," says Kennedy. The store is operated by Klansman John Howard, a former grand dragon for the Carolinas. He referred all questions to his lawyer who didn't return calls. Court documents show Howard sold the property to fellow Klansman Michael Burden in 1994. Kennedy says the two were friends, but there was a falling out between them and his church took Burden in. As a thank you for their help, Burden sold the property to the church for $1,000. "And thank God I kept all the receipts," says Kennedy. He says the two friends re-united. Burden now says the sale shouldn't count because he was intoxicated at the time. But a judge has found the property belongs to New Beginning and ordered Howard and Burden to pay the church's $3,365 legal fees. Kennedy found out about it this week. "The Redneck Shop is a constant reminder of a cruel history where pain and torture were inflicted upon innocent people. To receive that order from the judge, it gave a delight and joy that you really just can't describe," says Kennedy. He says he'd like to move his church from the trailer to the old theater that houses The Redneck Shop. But some members of his congregation don't want to worship in a place which once-sold Klan materials. Plus, it's not clear whether the judge's ruling allows the church to shut down the store. A clause in the 1994 sale of the building says the original owner of the Redneck Shop can operate the store until he dies.