LAUREL, Md. - Ragamuffins Coffee House is hoping to brew up more than just a cup of coffee. They said their mission is to serve the community by holding church service in their coffee shop every Sunday. But two years later, they are still in a battle with the City of Laurel over whether their coffee shop can be used for religious purposes.
Redemption Community Church purchased the coffee shop along Main Street in downtown Laurel back in 2015. However, several days later, the city changed the zoning code which prohibited non-profits from locating in downtown without meeting the new regulations.
Now, Ragamuffins Coffee House faces a fine of $250 each time it holds a church service in the coffee shop.
“Redemption Community Church is a small church with a big heart for serving the underprivileged and the homeless in this community,” said Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom. “Federal law is very clear – cities may not discriminate against religious organizations and treat them less favorably than everyone else. All we are asking for is a level playing field.”
She said the church pays property taxes. And as a for-profit coffee shop, it intends to continue. But the city still has not made it clear why zoning was changed days after the church purchased the property.
Holcomb said the federal lawsuit was a last resort.
FOX 5 reached out to the city on what led to the change in zoning requirements.
“Our Attorney has this matter under review. Because of pending litigation, we cannot comment at this time,” said Audrey Barnes, the director of communications for the City of Laurel, in a statement.
The pastor of the church told FOX 5 the congregation has suffered because of this back and forth with the city, but they hope to soon get back to their original mission of serving their community.