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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Texas Faith : : City ban on feeding the poor is an infringement on religious liberty

, , Wayne Slater,  Homeless ban, Feeding the homeless, 

The mayor of Fort Lauderdale is assuming that the homeless are not a part of the community, and have no say in the community affairs as they do not contribute towards the revenue of the city. He is also influenced by a few uncompassionate members of the business community as the presence of homeless people around their shops is ‘apparently’ hurting their business.

Texas Faith : : When is a city ban on feeding the poor an infringement on religious liberty?
By Wayne Slater published by Dallas Morning News at 1:57 pm on November 18, 2014  

When is a city ban on feeding the homeless in a public place an infringement on religious freedom?
In Florida, a 90-year-old WWII veteran was arrested for feeding the homeless at a public park. He’s been doing it for over 20 years through a program called Love Thy Neighbor. But a new ordinance in Fort Lauderdale has put a mountain of obstacles in the way, making it virtually impossible for the group to operate as it has.
Feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
On one side are local businesses that fear feeding the homeless in a conspicuous place was bad for business and tourism. On the other side are advocates of Love Thy Neighbor who say the group is within its constitutional rights. The city tried to balance the interests of both sides with rules aimed at moving such homeless programs into houses of worship or private property. But the organization wants to continue feeding the homeless as it has, in a seaside public park.
The clash between religious rights and the public interest is a common story line. We’ve weighed in on the dustup in Houston in which the city tried to subpoena the sermons of evangelical ministers opposed to a gay-rights ordinance. And every week, it seems, there’s a new report in which the advocates of religious liberty decry a rule or action at a public school.
Religious liberty isn’t absolute. There’s no right to hold a serpent-handling service at Disneyland. Or to shout “fire” in a crowded church because your religion told you to. Or to build a megachurch in a city neighborhood with a parking lot for only 10 cars.
In the case of feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale, the name of the organization is from a biblical injunction. Its mission is an act of faith. And if some businesses are inconvenienced or tourists would prefer not having to see the homeless by the beach, whose rights should prevail?
That’s this week’s question: Is a city ban on feeding the homeless in a public place an infringement on religious freedom? Our Texas Faith panel weighs in:
MIKE GHOUSE: President, Foundation for Pluralism and speaker on interfaith matters, Dallas
The city ban on feeding the homeless in public places is motivated by business politics rather than needs of the community.
The mayor of Fort Lauderdale is assuming that the homeless are not a part of the community, and have no say in the community affairs as they do not contribute towards the revenue of the city. He is also influenced by a few uncompassionate members of the business community as the presence of homeless people around their shops is ‘apparently’ hurting their business.
Since when have we started valuing individuals based on their contribution to the revenues of a city? That attitude renders nearly 15% of poor Americans valueless. Since when have we quit valuing our elderly with Alzheimer’s or kids with severe handicaps, or the homeless veterans?
Whether homelessness is a choice or not, they are a part of our communities and we have a responsibility for their safety and well being. Public safety is a prime responsibility of the elected we choose for governance.
The ordinance banning men and women from serving the homeless, out of their religious conviction amounts to infringement on their religious freedom and the ban needs to be challenged. The city cannot establish or ban a religion from doing public good. I believe the Becket funding takes up these cases. I sure will do my share of passing the information to them.
There is a way out. The city ought to withdraw the ordinance and consider forging or facilitating partnerships between the business community and those who want to serve the homeless, and serve them healthy food as a requirement for public safety.
Shame on us, we give away $48 billion dollars a year in military assistance to other nations for killing each other, and we cannot spend 1/100th of that on our homeless?
Those of us who are callous, ought to re-look in to the idea of human development, by investing in pulling people from ditches on to a level playing field, we would be enlarging our consumer base, boosting business all around. Pope Francis is indeed setting examples after examples – the latest news is he is building showers for the homeless in the square.
Caliph Omar was known for justice, and he forgave a thief against the norms of the society at that time. Instead, he took the responsibility and declared that the society ought to be ashamed, that a man was humiliated to stealing food for his sick child. We have to take care of our fellow beings no matter who they are. As a society we have to figure out a better system to take care of the hungry.

To read the opinions of other panelists, please visit Dallas Morning News at http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2014/11/texas-faith-when-is-a-city-ban-on-feeding-the-poor-an-infringement-on-religious-liberty.html/#more-47834

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Mike Ghouse is a public speaker, thinker, writer and a commentator on Pluralism at work place, politics, religion, society, gender, race, culture, ethnicity, food and foreign policy. He is commentator on Fox News and syndicated Talk Radio shows and a writer at major news papers including Dallas Morning News and Huffington Post.  All about him is listed in several links at www.MikeGhouse.net and his writings are at www.TheGhousediary.com and 10 other blogs. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.

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