Mary Lehman

A Laurel Church that won a lawsuit against the Prince George’s county earlier, recently filed another lawsuit, after the county council rejected its application to start construction work of the church.

The council’s refusal to build “Reaching Heart” church prompted U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus to order the council’s attorneys to explain council decision by Aug. 4, and he set a hearing date for Sept. 1.

Judge Titus said that the council’s recent rejection of the church’s request seemed “a case of deja vu all over again.” The council, he said, had again relied on the same ‘alleged ‘environmental’ reasons rejected by the jury and this court.

Back in 2002, as a West Laurel resident Dist. 1 council woman Ms. Lehman (along with previous council member Mr. Dernoga) strongly opposed the construction of the Church in her neighborhood. A Federal Judge later awarded the Church $3.7 million in a lawsuit against the county. In last year’s congressional election, Critics such as State’s attorney candidate Angela Alsobrooks cited this as a religious discrimination case.

According to the Washington Post, with Dernoga’s replacement, council member Mary Lehman (D-Laurel), leading the opposition this year, the council raised concerns about the scope of the project and worried anew that it might pollute the nearby Rocky Gorge Reservoir, a source of drinking water. The council unanimously turned down the church’s request.

Titus ordered federal marshals to immediately serve the council with notice, citing the “gravity of the matter,” and he ordered Lehman to appear at the Sept. 1 hearing.