Saturday, February 10, 2018

Small Church Challenges Zoning Changes

Yesterday a small church in Laurel, Maryland filed a federal lawsuit challenging a zoning code change that prevents it from using property it purchased for a non-profit coffee shop and house of worship.  The complaint (full text) in Redemption Community Church v. City of Laurel, Maryland, (D MD, filed 2/9/2018), alleges that the zoning changes violate its right under RLUIPA and the 1st Amendment.  It alleges in part:
4. ... the City changed its zoning code to ban non-profit businesses and to require small churches (those located on less than one acre) to go through an onerous, costly, and uncertain special exception process before locating in the C-V Zone.
5. Churches that can afford more than an acre, and numerous secular assemblies or institutions can locate in the C-V Zone as of right....
7. The City has discriminated against Redemption Community Church, treated it less favorably than similarly-situated secular organizations, substantially burdened the Church’s free exercise of religion, and infringed on the Church’s right to free speech, peaceable assembly, and equal protection in violation of the Church’s federal and constitutional rights.
ADF issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.