Monday, June 21, 2010

Church settles dispute with city
over pancake service to homeless

Anthony Vaitkus, 53, (left) and Jason Skinner, 31, eat breakfast at CrossRoads United Methodist Church in Phoenix.

The Saturday morning service includes songs, prayers and a hot breakfast of scrambled eggs, pancakes and bacon.

CrossRoads United Methodist Church in Phoenix has reached a deal with the city that ends an upcoming federal-court battle over the church's Saturday pancake-breakfast service. As a result, the church will drop its federal suit against the city.

The church's Prodigal's Home ministry will continue the Saturday morning service inside the church. The service had been outside. The ministry hopes to relocate the pancake service within the next six months, said Mike Ricker, executive director of Prodigal's Home.

Last summer, some neighbors of the church complained that by feeding homeless and hungry people on its campus, the church was operating a charity dining hall in violation of the city's residential zoning. The city ordered the church to stop. The church defended its weekly worship service, citing the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, the First Amendment and statutes protecting freedom of religion.

A hearing officer ruled that feeding the homeless at a place of worship can be banned by city ordinance. A few months later, the city's Board of Adjustment ruled in the city's favor, prompting legal action from the church in U.S. District Court.

Read the Arizona Republic report here. And see previous post here.


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