By Gudrun Schultz

FLORENCE, South Carolina, September 12, 2006 ( – The city of Florence has ended a four-year battle with a pro-life group by paying $51,000 to Columbia Christians for Life in an out-of-court settlement, the Associated Press reported.

Five of the 30-member group were arrested in Florence in August 2002 after the group refused to sign a city parade permit, disputing the constitutionality of the city’s demand that the group receive permission before demonstrating. The organization was conducting a statewide tour protesting against abortion.

City officials said they decided to settle out of court because the city was not enforcing the permit requirement, and because the wording of the ordinance was in question.

“We had a court case that indicated the language in our ordinance was perhaps unconstitutional. We wanted to minimize any monetary damages to the city,” David Williams, city manager, told the .

“I thank the Lord for upholding our God-given, inalienable and constitutional protected rights to peacefully assemble, exercise free speech and exercise freedom of religion on a public sidewalk without having to have a permit from the government to do so,” Steve Lefemine, with Columbia Christians for Life said Monday night.

Half of the amount will go to pay the group’s legal fees, according to AP coverage.