A BALTIMORE County hearing officer has ruled that an occasional prayer service in a basement doesn't transform a home into a religious institution. As a result, Seth and Lisa Pachino of Owings Mills won't have to obtain a "change in occupancy" permit to hold these periodic services.
What makes this an interesting case is that it was more about zoning regulations and building codes than religious freedom.
The issue before hearing officer Stanley Schapiro was whether the Pachinos had converted their home from a dwelling into a synagogue. The county's Division of Code Enforcement contended that by holding religious services, the Pachinos altered the intended use of their home and that is subject to government review.