ADF Church Alliance member, Redemption Community Church, is facing roadblocks to its plan to build a “come one, come all” non-profit coffee shop in the inner city.
The church sold its property and donated some of the proceeds from the sale to other local religious non-profits. The church then moved to Main Street in Laurel, Maryland, to open its Ragamuffins Coffee House, which would serve as a coffee shop and worship center.
Within days of the church’s sale of its property outside the city, the City of Laurel made a law change to bar non-profit businesses from the area. The law then changed again a few weeks later that forced churches to be on lots less than one acre or obtain a “special exception.”
Instead, the church opened a for-profit coffee house and planned to close the shop on Sundays for worship services.
The City, however, reportedly said it would fine the church $250 a day if worship services did not cease.
The church, in turn, has filed a lawsuit with the Alliance Defending Freedom.
“The government can’t discriminate against churches simply because they are religious,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “Despite making every effort to work with the city to comply with its burdensome zoning changes, Redemption Community Church is now being told to either stop holding worship services or pay severe fines. Federal law is clear: The city’s discriminatory practices violate the law.”
To acquire a “special exception” to the city’s zoning law, the church would have to submit an application, pay a $2,000 filing fee and hire an engineer to draft both an “Existing Conditions Site Plan” and a “Proposed Site Plan.”
The church called the application “costly.”
“The government is constitutionally required to treat religious organizations equally,” said ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “Laurel officials allow secular groups such as cinemas, theatres, comedy clubs, schools, and health clubs to locate downtown, but not this small church that wants to serve its community. That’s not legal or constitutional.”
Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Ben White
Publication date: March 13, 2018