Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Feeding the Homeless in Public Places

As discussed in this report, religious groups have been challening zoning and other laws that limit their ability to feed and otherwise minister to the homeless in public parks and other places.  Although in the reported case the church relies upon  religious liberties, these challenges have sometimes included free speech claims as well.

Generally, courts have allowed municipalities to apply permit requirements and other time, place, and manner restrictions to public ministries.  Some of the no-feeding laws may be vulnerable to vagueness challenges.  Anti-feeding ordinances are a relatively recent phenomenon.  They are part of the larger effort to control activities in public places in pursuit of local aesthetic and purported public safety interests.  As in any such conflict, the neighbors want peace, tranquility, and security and the activists want to reach their audience where it is most likely to be found.          

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