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Federal Court Hearing Today On City’s Ban On Feeding Homeless

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(A free food distribution on city land in May 2012.  Credit: John McDevitt)

(A free food distribution on city land in May 2012. Credit: John McDevitt)

Gregg_Cherrie--NEW Cherri Gregg
Cherri Gregg is the community affairs reporter for KYW Newsr...
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By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Several religious groups will appear in federal court Monday for a hearing to decide the fate of Philadelphia’s ban on outdoor feedings.

Philadelphia Attorney Paul Messing (of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg LLP) represents the four religious groups suing to put a stop to the ban on constitutional grounds.

“We’re going to present evidence to show that they’re engaged in the free exercise of religion and that what they do is protected by both the First Amendment and the Pennsylvania Religious Freedom Protection Act.”

Reverend Brian Jenkins of Chosen 300 Ministries is one of the plaintiffs in the case, and he says feeding the poor is a religious rite that he plans to exercise.

“We have never stopped our services, nor will we. This is not just a job or career for us, this is a calling. This is what God has called us to do.”

Although the ban went into effect in June, the City agreed not to enforce the ban until a judge rules on whether to enjoin it.

The ban prohibits the feeding of large groups of people on City parkland, including on the Ben Franklin Parkway and Love Park.

Mayor Michael Nutter has said the ban will protect the dignity of the homeless, cleanliness of the parks, and eliminate food health concerns.

The hearing is expected to last two days.

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