Why a church is banned from feeding the needyThe kitchen is closed at a Phoenix church that fed the homeless.
CrossRoads United Methodist Church lost an appeal over a city ordinance that bans charity dining halls in residential neighborhoods.
The hearing officer, retired Arizona Supreme Court Justice Robert Corcoran, ruled that feeding the homeless at a place of worship can be banned by city ordinance. The decision affects all Phoenix churches with underlying residential zoning and is effective immediately.
City officials maintained that CrossRoads violated Phoenix zoning code by feeding the poor and homeless on its property, a use that can occur only in commercial or industrial zones.
In its appeal, CrossRoads said it is not operating as a charity dining hall because it is a church. Church officials maintained that its actions were protected by the First Amendment and the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
The controversy over the weekly pancake worship service arose last spring after neighbors complained about an increase of homeless people sleeping and loitering in alleys, incidents of burglary, aggressive panhandling, vandalism, public intoxication, prostitution and public urination. Parents of preschool students on the church campus complained that their children encountered transients in school hallways.
Read the Arizona Republic report here. And read Pastor Dottie Escobedo-Frank's reaction to the ruling here.