Lawsuit challenges ban on feeding homeless

Dec. 28, 2007 at 12:14 AM
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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Two groups that provide food for the homeless in West Palm Beach, Fla., have sued the city, challenging an ordinance that bans free food distribution.

The lawsuit claims the city has established a "pay to pray" system, The Palm Beach Post reported.

"Those who can pay for a building or pay money for the mayor's special projects or charities are granted the permission to pray and practice their religion as they see fit, but those who lack the funds to own a building ... are told to go inside another's church in order to carry out their sacred duties outside the public view," lawyers said in court papers.

The two groups, Art and Compassion and Food Not Bombs, took some digs at Mayor Lois Frankel, who was recently cleared by a grand jury of "pay to play" allegations. Frankel supported the ordinance banning food giveaways.

The suit says the ordinance is unconstitutional. Sherri Renner, one of the two lawyers involved, described it as so vague that someone sharing a sandwich with a friend might face prosecution.

The two groups have continued to give away food since the ordinance was adopted. Police have watched their activities but have not tried to stop them.

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