Another City Bans Feeding Homeless in Parks: Orlando, Florida
by Food Not Bombs Saturday July 29, 2006 at 12:10 PM
ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - The American Civil Liberties Union said on Friday it may challenge on religious grounds a new ordinance in Orlando banning the feeding of homeless people in downtown parks.
By Barbara Liston Fri Jul 28, 5:47 PM ET
"The city is not going to be able to interfere with church groups and religious groups who are fulfilling their mission of feeding the homeless," said Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida ACLU.
"There may be other grounds on which the law may be vulnerable, but that one -- interference with freedom of religion -- seems to me to be the absolute clearest," he said.
The ordinance, passed on Monday, specifically bans regular feeding stations in parks within a 2-mile (3.2-km) radius of Orlando City Hall, where the city is undergoing a renaissance of new condominiums, office buildings and university campuses.
Simon said challenges to similar ordinances in places like Las Vegas had been most successful when focused on religious rights.
In a statement on Friday, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said, "The city's approval of this ordinance is not about whether or not to feed the homeless but instead where."
Dyer noted the city had set up tables, benches and portable toilets in a vacant lot a couple of blocks away from Orlando's Lake Eola Park specifically for homeless feeding stations. The lot is within 2 miles of City Hall but outside the banned park area itself.
Before filing a lawsuit, the ACLU is organizing a coalition of churches and other charitable groups, including the First Vagabond Church, to attempt a settlement with the city.
Barry said the coalition, Stop The Ordinance Partnership, would propose at a meeting on Monday that the city rescind the ordinance and create a facility where the homeless can drop in for meals, showers, medical care and other needs, thereby lessening the appeal of feeding stations in the park.
Homeless feedings at Lake Eola Park continued this week despite the ordinance when the group Food Not Bombs found a loophole and served casserole out of a van parked at the curb.
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