MorninStar Church Lawsuit Against York County Over Fort Mill SC Tower


The 21-story tower never completed and never occupied.

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The latest legal filing in the years-long dispute over what is now the MorningStar Tower alleges York County violated South Carolina’s Freedom of Information Act.

MorningStar Fellowship Church filed the allegations last week against the county. Morningstar alleges the county released what the church says was largely false information in a March press release, but then cited attorney-client privilege as the reason for not providing MorningStar’s information to the publication’s support, which the church requested through the FOIA.

The filing mentions public information officer Greg Suskin, who sent the release to the media in March. On Thursday afternoon, Suskin emailed the Herald saying the county had no comment at this time on the latest filing.

MorningStar supporters have been at odds with the county for more than 15 years over an unfinished 21-story tower in Fort Mill. Discussions remain intense, as meetings of York County Council over the past few months regularly draw a dozen church members or supporters who call on the county to let MorningStar complete the tower. Various legal disputes have been before the courts for more than a decade.

Construction began in 1986 on the tower as part of the Heritage USA and Praise the Lord Ministry property at Fort Mill, which had been popularized by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. The tower was left unfinished when the ministry filed for bankruptcy amid a scandal that cost Jim Bakker his job.

MorningStar, unaffiliated with the previous ministry, took over the tower nearly two decades ago. MorningStar has completed several construction projects on its property in the Regent Park area. The church wants to complete the tower to allow the elderly to live.

The county argues that the deadlines have already passed for when the tower should have fallen, and that even construction done decades ago should meet today’s and stricter building standards.

“The county has a duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens and simply cannot allow a 35-year-old building that was never completed to stand in its current state” , reads the March release.

In Wednesday’s filing, MorningStar says the church submitted a FOIA request largely in response to the press release.

“By publicly disseminating false statements to millions of potential readers in the press release, York County has effectively waived any claims of attorney-client privilege or attorney work product because it has disseminated information to third parties through its reckless press release, which is now largely the basis of the FOIA request,” MorningStar wrote in the filing.

MorningStar takes issue with York County’s statement in the statement that the courts had dismissed all previous claims against the church related to the tower.

“As the record of both courts indisputably shows, this reckless epistle was patently false in several crucial respects and was clearly designed, in part, to directly undermine and destroy the ministry of MorningStar by sabotaging and slandering its reputation with the public,” said the record. bed.

The filing Wednesday calls for a response from the county within 30 days.

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John Marks graduated from Furman University in 2004 and joined the Herald in 2005. He covers community growth, municipalities, transportation and education primarily in York and Lancaster counties. The Fort Mill native has won dozens of South Carolina Press Association awards and several President McClatchy Awards for news coverage in Fort Mill and Lake Wylie.
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