by Countable | 1.9.19
What’s the story?
- The Freedom Center of Missouri is suing St. Louis over regulations that prevent people from providing home-cooked meals to the homeless.
- The federal lawsuit alleges that the policy violates the constitutional rights to freely practice religion, as various faiths mandate helping those in need.
What’s the backstory?
- In October, police in St. Louis fined Rev. Ray Redlich and Chris Ohnimus for giving bologna sandwiches to homeless people without first obtaining the proper permits. They were cited for violating health code laws.
- The Freedom Center of Missouri, which is representing the pair, argues that St. Louis and cities with similar laws use fines and threats of legal action to “bully” people who feed the homeless.
- “They know that the ordinary folks wouldn’t have the emotional or financial resources to fight back,” said Dave Roland, director of litigation for the nonprofit and attorney for both men.
“So by throwing citations at them and hauling them into court, they think they can just make these people stop pursuing their constitutional rights.”
- But City Counselor Julian Bush argues it’s about health, not religion.
- “People want to be protected by their governments from unsafe food, and at the same time be free of officious meddling by governments in their personal affairs. It is sometimes difficult to draw the line between providing adequate protection and imposing too much red tape,” Bush wrote in a statement.
"If these sandwiches had poisoned those who consumed them, there would have been an outcry that there was insufficient regulation; if not, there is a protest of over-regulation.”
What do you think?
Should you be able to feed the homeless home-cooked meals? Or do cities need to protect people from unsafe food? Take action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / AndreyPopov)