Church Banned from It’s Own Coffee Shop

By Visitor7 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The City of Laurel is reconsidering the decision to give permission to Ragamuffin Coffee House

The Redemption Community Church has filed a case against a zoning regulation which forbids them from holding any kind of worship services at Ragamuffins Coffee House . The latter is owned by the church. The city of Laurel has forbidden them to do any kind of activity unless they file an application for a specific waiver. The church is loath to do so as it believes that the process is not only an expensive one but uncertain too.

The lawsuit is listed in court records as Redemption Community Church v. City of Laurel. It was filed during the first week of February in District of Maryland's U.S. District Court. A conservative law firm, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), represents the church. The firm is known for managing religious liberty litigation. Christiana Holcomb, the Legal Counsel of ADF, in a statement said the zoning regulation of city of Laurel was discriminatory.

Redemption Community Church's principal contention is a particular zoning law which needs the former to undergo a special exception. This specific law is not applicable to any non-religious assembly. The requirements of religious organizations include submission of a $2,000 filing fee. This amount will not be refunded whatever the outcome of the application. The religious organization must also hire the services of an engineer to make two different site plans- an existing one and the other proposed site plan. There is also the need for a detailed application which can be rejected by City Board of Appeals.

The Redemption Community was earlier known as Covenant Presbyterian Church. It took the decision to relocate to downtown Laurel to better serve the poor. The non-profit coffee shop was set up to serve this aim. According to Reverend Jeremy Tuinstra, the church head, churches could actually be fortresses. In his 2017 interview with The Baltimore Sun, he said that despite his own preaching, he may not know his own neighbors.

Everything was going as planned in the beginning when the planning commission of the city in 2015 voted to provide Redemption Community the coveted parking waiver so that a not-for-profit shop selling varieties of coffee and ancillaries can be set up. Ragamuffins Coffee House was set up in Laurel's “Commercial Village Zone.” The application for a worship place triggered the sequence of requirements which led to such a development. The Commission chief, Commissioner Mitzi Betman, said during the 2015 meeting that the vote must be reconsidered due to the new details which have come to their attention.


Follow the Conversation on Twitter