Judge Rejects Maryland City’s Attempt to Dismiss Church’s Lawsuit Over Being Banned from Holding Services in Coffee Shop

A federal judge has rejected a Maryland city’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit by a church that was banned from worshiping at a coffee shop they own due to a zoning regulation.

Judge Peter J. Messitte of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland issued a memorandum opinion on Wednesday against the city of Laurel’s attempt to end a lawsuit filed by Redemption Community Church.

Messitte said the church’s argument was persuasive enough to reject the city’s motion to dismiss for, among other things, the claims of religious discrimination being plausible.

For example, the opinion noted that the zoning regulations enacted by Laurel was “quite possibly related” to the religious nature of RCC’s property.

“This suggestion is buttressed by the allegations regarding City Planner [Monta] Burrough’s comments to church representatives, immediately after which the church received its first cease and desist letter demanding that it cease holding worship services,” wrote Messitte.

“Such allegations, if proven, plausibly support the conclusion that the special exception process, as it applies to houses of worship, is ‘unfair’ and that the church need not go through it before the court can consider the as-applied claims.”

A small congregation, RCC oversees a nonprofit coffee shop called Ragamuffins Coffee House, which is located in a downtown neighborhood.

In March 2015, Laurel’s Planning Commission voted to grant Redemption Community a parking waiver to allow for its creation of a nonprofit coffee shop and worship space.

The Ragamuffins Coffee House was located in the “Commercial Village Zone” of Laurel and needed a waiver in response to a code regulation on number of spaces.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Gryboski