In August 1972, the Rev. Ben Morehead bought an old Chinese laundry on upper Georgia Avenue, turned it into a small community church--the True Church of the Lord Jesus Christ Inc.--and began preaching the good word to parishioners who faithfully attended his Sunday services. But the minister's good word was questioned by the D.C. government.
Morehead says he filed for a tax exemption in 1973 and assumed he had gotten it when he didn't hear from the city. But a tax lien was put on the property in 1976 when he didn't pay any taxes. Morehead says he never knew about the lien, though the city says it sent him a notice.
In 1977 the land was sold at a tax sale. During the mandatory two-year wait before deed to the land could be granted, the District says it again tried to notify Morehead and again failed. In 1979 the deed was given to Elbert C. Robinson, the new owner. In January 1981, Morehead sued the city for recovery of the land.
Now, 14 months later, the case still has not been scheduled for trial in D.C. Superior Court, but Robinson has continued to let Morehead use the church, charging him $165 a month rental.
Morehead says he doesn't "know why it's taking so long. I sure would like to get it over with, 'cause I got some men in the church and they (are) kind of in doubt about the church. Some (people) won't work on (caring for) the building 'cause they feel I don't own it." Despite the legal hassle, Morehead, a retired government worker, conducts his Sunday service for his six parishioners and keeps on fighting.