Prince George’s County is asking a federal judge to dismiss a new lawsuit by a church seeking to build in Laurel, and also to postpone a ruling on a request by the church to hold the county government in contempt for failing to approve a water and sewer application.
In a brief filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt late Thursday, Acting County Attorney M. Andree Green asked Judge Roger Titus to dismiss a new claim that the county is practicing religious discrimination by turning down the request by Reaching Hearts International. The county also says the church’s request to hold the county government in contempt is not yet ready for court review.
Reaching Hearts wants to build a church in Laurel, but the County Council recently rejected its request for water and sewer rights, the first step in its development application.
On Tuesday, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), whose administration supported the church’s request for water and sewer rights, asked the County Council to reconsider its decision last month rejecting the church’s request. Only part of the property is currently zoned to allow water and sewer lines; the church is seeking permission throughout the property. A denial several years ago by the County Council led to a $3.7 million verdict against the county and for the church, a breakaway Adventist congregation.
Because the council still must act on Baker’s request, the contempt claim the church is pushing is premature, Green said in her brief.
The council’s next meeting is Sept. 13.
“The legislation is not effective until September 14, 2011, at the earliest, and it may in fact change in light of the county’s executive’s comments,” Green’s brief said.
Council members, whom U.S. District Judge Roger Titus also said must explain why they should not be held in contempt, are expected to file a separate reply brief from an outside attorney later this month. Green represents the council and the county executive, but council members have also retained their own attorney.