Sunday, March 14, 2010

Church files third lawsuit against Palm Beach County

For the third time, Palm Beach County's self-described, de facto homeless shelter is suing the Palm Beach County government.

In a 19-page lawsuit, the church accuses the county of operating a criminal enterprise to keep Westgate Tabernacle Church from ministering to the homeless.

The latest lawsuit, which comes less than a month after its suit against the county was thrown out of federal court, turns on information church pastor Avis Hill said he uncovered about Terry Verner, the former county code enforcement director. At the same time Verner was citing the church for code violations, he was dropping his brother-in-law off at the shelter, Hill claims.

The action, attorney Barry Silver says, shows the county knew there was no other place for homeless people to go yet hid that knowledge when it won a 2007 trial. After that nine-day trial, a six-person jury found that the county didn't trample on the church's right to religious freedom.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld the decision, ruling that the church needs a county permit to operate a homeless shelter. In the ruling, judges acknowledged that the church can't get a permit because it doesn't have enough space to accommodate 100 people a night.

Read the Palm Beach Post report here. (There's lots of previous posts about this so use the search function at the top.)


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