March 2022 Church & State Magazine

Ore. Church Challenges Feeding Homeless Restrictions

  Ore. Church Challenges Feeding Homeless Restrictions

A church in Brookings, Ore., is suing city officials over a new ordinance that restricts how often it can feed homeless people.

St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church says the ordinance, which limits its feeding program to two days per week within certain hours, violates the church’s religious freedom.

“We’ve been serving our community here for decades and picking up the slack where the need exists and no one else is stepping in,” the Rev. Bernie Lindley said in a statement. “We have no intention of stopping now and we’re prepared to hold fast to our beliefs. We won’t abandon the people of Brookings who need our help, even when we’re being threatened.”

Residents who live near the church in the town of about 6,500 residents have complained about littering, noise and drug use from “vagrants” they say are drawn to the church.

The ordinance, passed in October, limits houses of worship and charitable organizations to apply for a permit to provide “benevolent meal service” no more than twice weekly and with limited hours, reported The Washington Post.

St. Timothy’s, The Post reported, has refused to apply for the permit. It argues that the restrictions “target and interfere with the congregation’s free expression of their Christian faith which calls them to serve others in need.”

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