The Rev. Windy Price, who leads the non-denominational Ocean View Christian Community Church – formerly the Atlantic Beach Christian Methodist Episcopal Church – says she has first-hand experience being a target of harassment from the town under a previous town administration.
Price said she was intermittently harassed by the town’s police between 2004 and 2009, and it reached a breaking point with her arrest in 2009 for a building code violation. That was the same year she ran for – and won – a town council seat. But the city didn’t immediately seat her on council and she had to wait two years for a South Carolina Supreme Court decision before she could take her place on the city’s governing board.
“It was an outright effort of the town and administrative staff and the lawyers and the judges of the town,” Price said. “It was a deliberate act of them to oust this church. And the only way they could oust this church, they would have to harass myself and my family to the extreme. And in 2009, that extreme happened through an illegal arrest of my husband and myself during a Bible study.”
Price accused the town of illegally condemning her church. “And being in construction and being contractors ourselves, we know the proper way you condemn any building and we know our church did not fit those guidelines for condemnation. It was basically, that night, do you go to church or do you go with this bogus condemnation and abandon your church?”
Price and her husband, Darnell, chose to go to church. While there, Price said, one of the attendees got a text that the police were coming.
“So everyone kind of got up in arms, and I’m thinking as a pastor, surely they won’t stoop that low, not come to a church and disrupt a service,” she said.
But officers showed up to interrupt worship, threatening to arrest anyone who didn’t leave. As attendees filed out the doors, Price said, an officer began to arrest her husband, Darnell. Price said that as she tried to leave, she was stopped by another officer and also arrested.
“No Miranda rights were read, no reason why we [were] being apprehended,” Price said. “At this time, I’m not believing what’s going on. I start reciting the 23rd Psalm.”
After Price and her husband were released from jail on bond the next day, they found out what the charge was: a building code violation.
“We’re like, ‘You took us to jail for a building code violation that was not even legal?’” Price asked. “Of course, the damage [was] already done. And so when I returned back from J. Reuben Long that next morning, I come to the church and they got crime scene tape, got the whole church taped off with crime scene tape.”
The locks had been changed, Price said, and when the electricity was shut off, the church lost all their food that was stored in the refrigerator and freezer.
The town manager at the time, William Booker, was replaced in 2011, when Price took her seat on council. Booker eventually got his job back again, but was fired years later. Booker recently ran for town council, but lost.
Price described that time period as a David and Goliath situation.
“That’s how I felt,” she said. “Here’s little me, here’s an entire town, on top of some citizens who supported what they were doing instead of standing by the work of the Lord. So that was a pretty big giant. It took a lot of prayers, a lot of tears, a lot of encouragement to stay in the midst of all of that.”
Price sued over the arrest. She eventually reached a settlement with the town.