Suppose a church becomes convicted to minister to the inner city. And its conviction turns into a vision to operate a “come one, come all” non-profit coffee shop where it can serve and build relationships with the local community during the week, while providing them the opportunity to hear the Gospel at its worship services on the weekend.
Sounds great, right?
Well, that’s exactly what ADF Church Alliance member Redemption Community Church tried to do. Obeying the call, the church sold its property outside the city – donating a large portion of its proceeds to other local religious non-profits in the city – and moved right onto Main Street. Then, the church prepared to roll out its ministry plan.
Except the city had other plans.
At every turn, the City of Laurel, Maryland has done its best to block this church from following its calling. In February 2018, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of this Church Alliance member.
Within days of the church purchasing its new building, the city “coincidentally” changed the law to exclude non-profit businesses from the area. If that wasn’t bad enough, a few weeks later, the city changed the law again.
This time, the city passed a law that forces churches on lots less than one acre – essentially every church in the area – to go through a costly and burdensome process to obtain what the city calls a “special exception.” The application process isn’t just a formality, either. Churches who apply can still be denied their request at the end of it all.
These changes rendered the church’s newly purchased property useless for its intended plans. However, because of its continued desire and vision to minister to downtown Laurel, the church tried to adapt by starting a for-profit coffee shop that would operate as a means to serve and connect with the local community Monday through Saturday. Then, it would use the building on Sundays to hold church services when the coffee shop was closed.
But the city was not going to allow that either.
Instead, the city has threatened the church with daily fines if it does not immediately stop all worship gatherings in its building.
This is blatant discrimination. The city does not place these restrictions on similar secular buildings or institutions. ADF is here to ensure this church, and all churches, are treated equally and have the freedom to live and preach the Gospel in their community.
Unfortunately, issues like this are more common than you might think. That is exactly why ADF launched the Church Alliance, an affordable membership program that prepares, advises, and even litigates on behalf of churches – such as Redemption Community Church – as the legal culture tests the limits of religious freedom.
Because every church should have the legal space to minister as God leads.