Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Palm Beach County not violating church's religious freedom by denying homeless shelter, appeals court says

Palm Beach County did not violate the religious freedom of Westgate Tabernacle Church's leaders by refusing to let them operate a homeless shelter without a permit, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled.

The church has been in a prolonged legal battle with the county for housing homeless people. The church is the only place in Palm Beach County where a person can walk in off the street and seek shelter for the same night.

The Rev. Avis Hill has said in the past that he doesn't believe his church is violating the law. He says the assistance his church gives to the homeless is a mission from God.

A jury sided with the county in 2007, but Westgate appealed and continued to operate without county permission, putting up a tent where dozens of homeless men sleep.

Westgate failed to prove to running a homeless shelter at that specific location was fundamental to its exercise of religion, judges wrote.

Read the court's decision here. And read the Palm Beach Post report here.


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