A lawsuit filed by the city of Winchester against a local fruit company has been delayed, as judges in Roanoke hear arguments in a related case.
The city’s suit against National Fruit Product Company Inc., also known as Whitehouse Foods, has been postponed until April 1, giving the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia time to hear Afresh Church’s religious discrimination suit against the city.
The city was fining National Fruit for letting the church use its corporate event space, which is located in an industrial zoning area. Such meetings are prohibited under the city’s light industrial (M1) zoning regulations.
The initial lawsuit filed by the city in the Winchester General District Court served as an attempt to collect the fines owed by National Fruit, incurred by the violation of allowing Afresh to use the space.
However, the church claims the city’s actions are discriminatory, since both Afresh’s pastor and Bill Gum of Whitehouse Foods say the city never served National Fruit a citation when secular groups used the events center.
The city has until February 1 to respond to Afresh’s federal lawsuit.