Patapsco United Methodist Church in Maryland is being fined for doing what they believe is a scriptural mandate to care for the poor.
"I showed up Wednesday morning to find a citation on the door that said we're going to be fined $12,000 and have a court date because we have unhoused homeless people sleeping outside the church at night," said Reverend Katie Grover.
The church has been a refuge for some homeless people who have nowhere else to go, Grover said, and had been staying at the church because they feel it is the safest place for them. She says that it's actually hard to control whoever is sleeping there at night. They cannot stop homelessness or poverty because it's chronic but are trying to do their best as a church by not chasing away the people who are only trying to sleep.
But the owner of the property next door, Chester Bartko, claims that the actions of the church are not good for his business. He owns a produce stand next the church and said that homeless people have camped right next to their retail area. He also claimed to be threatened by them and his apple tree became the target of the homeless.
"They dump gallons of urine on it," Bartko said. He says that the church should be upholding the standards of the community, but their actions with the poor are the opposite of that.
The church first received a warning for non-permitted rooming and boarding last June. Since then, they have received three more. Grover is now struggling with what to do next. She says the church is doing what they think is the best because they know the homeless are also children of God.
Reverend Grover says that church is to appear in court on December 21, and if they comply with the code, they would not have to pay the $12,000. But failure to so could actually lead to the church having to shut down.