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Maryland Church, Banned from Services in ITS OWN BUILDING, Fights Back in Court

Josh Shepherd : Jul 11, 2018 : Stream.org

"Why do churches, of all entities, need an 'extra layer of scrutiny' from city officials? Why have the city's zoning laws been a virtual moving target here? It doesn't make sense really, apart from discrimination."

[Stream.org] Barred from holding worship services in its own building, a small Christian church in Laurel, Maryland, is fighting back in court. Located midway between Baltimore and Washington, DC, the City of Laurel sent a second cease-and-desist letter in January to Redemption Community Church. (Photo: Pastor Jeremy Tuinstra meets with a small group from Redemption Community Church in 2017/Redemption Community Church/Instagram/via The Stream)

The city objects to Redemption meeting Sundays in its newly opened downtown coffee shop. The church founded Ragamuffins Coffee House as "a safe place for people to connect to others in meaningful community."

After three years of public and private meetings, church leaders thought they had complied fully with building and zoning codes. But the city says no.

Threatened With Fines for Worship Services

"It's unclear why the city has so vehemently objected to Redemption's desire to minister to its community," says Christiana Holcomb. "The city has been inconsistent in its policies and stated commitments." The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney spoke with The Stream via phone.

In 2017, the church relocated to a downtown coffee shop as its place of worship. Last April, they began holding weekly services at the quaint storefront. "The City of Laurel threatened the church with fines of $250 per day for holding worship services in its own building," explains Holcomb. "Yet services have been held on Sundaymornings, when Main Street is practically vacant."

The church began working with public interest legal firm ADF earlier this year. In February, they filed Redemption Community Church v. City of Laurel in federal court. The city addressed the matter in a brief statement.

"The suit claims the City has discriminated against the church through the exercise of its zoning authority," it reads. "The City completely denies this claim." On June 5, a federal judge in Maryland presided over the first hearing in the case. Both parties express confidence about prevailing in the dispute.

Meanwhile, religious liberty experts say the case reveals a larger national trend of hostility towards churches in...

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