(CN) – A new church criticized for hiding its alleged true purpose as a swingers club is a new entity and has nothing to do with the sex club, the church’s attorney says.
The Social Club, formerly located in downtown Nashville, changed its name to United Fellowship Center when it came under fire from parents and religious leaders who opposed a new location near a private Christian school, according to an Associated Press report.
The Nashville Metro Council passed an ordinance last month prohibiting private clubs in the area where The Social Club intended to relocate, according to a WKRN report.
The station also reported that a church renovation permit for the location, dated March 25, was obtained after the ordinance was passed.
Larry Roberts, attorney for the church, told Courthouse News that United Fellowship Center is a separate entity from the Social Club and serves a different purpose, adding that “rebranding” is not an accurate term to describe the new church.
“The United States Constitution says Congress shall make no law respecting religion or the free exercise thereof,” Roberts said in a phone interview. “So how do you say, ‘my church is valid and yours is just baloney?’ The church will have some tenets of religion that would not be too dissimilar from, let’s say, the Ten Commandments.”
Roberts said work currently being done on the premises is happening under a renovation permit. He does not anticipate problems with applying for an operational permit, which he anticipates will happen in June.
Roberts said anyone can attend the church and no sexual activity whatsoever will occur on the premises.
The Social Club’s website says it was founded in 1980 and is supported by swingers in the Nashville area.
“We aren’t looking for publicity or notoriety, which is why we don’t have signage – in fact we operated for several years across from a church in Nashville without any problems,” the club’s website states. “Many of our members are parents themselves, and the Social Club is open only at night when the school and church are closed.”
The website appears to be outdated, as it references the old downtown Nashville address. The Tennessean reported in January that the Social Club sold its downtown building last fall. A petition against the new location has more than 2,100 signatures.
A bill introduced in the state legislature in February directs the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance to study issues concerning the regulation of swingers clubs and report back to the general assembly by December.
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