Home Church community Church sues Brookings for restricting meal services for the homeless

Church sues Brookings for restricting meal services for the homeless

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The town of Brookings, located on Oregon’s southern coast, is being sued after the local government passed an ordinance last fall prohibiting St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church from serving more than two free meals a week to the homeless. -shelter without permit.

The church says it obeys the teachings of Jesus Christ when providing food and medical care to those in need. By denying them this opportunity, they claim the city is interfering with their faith.

Most Reverend Diana Akiyama is the Bishop of the Diocese of Oregon. She says Brookings interferes with the right to religious expression.

“We are a Christian denomination, seeking to express our faith fundamentally in the form of feeding hungry people,” Akiyama said. “And we don’t think the city council has the right to tell us to stop caring for people in need.”

Brookings Mayor Ron Hedenskog declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.

The ordinance prohibiting serving more than two free meals a week was passed by the city council in October. It came in response to a petition that circulated in April among Brookings residents who live near St. Timothy’s. They claimed that the church’s programs created public safety issues. The petition, which called people around St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church “vagrants” and “undesirables,” was signed by 30 people.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Timothy’s has taken on a greater role in feeding, immunizing and sheltering the homeless community.

Walter Fonseca of the Oregon Justice Resource Center is representing St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in the lawsuit. He argues that the ordinance appears to be aimed specifically at limiting church activities.