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Closing Arguments Set In Challenge Of Philadelphia’s Outdoor Feeding Ban

(File photo: a group of people being given free meals at a parkland location in Philadelphia.  Credit: John McDevitt)

(File photo: a group of people being given free meals at a parkland location in Philadelphia. Credit: John McDevitt)

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By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Closing arguments were scheduled for Thursday morning in a federal court challenge to Philadelphia’s ban on outdoor food programs. The case pits city officials against religious groups that feed the homeless.

Religious groups have asked for an injunction to halt new regulations on outdoor food service, on the grounds that they interfere with the free expression of their religious belief in feeding the hungry.

In two days of testimony, religious leaders, such as Reverend Brian Jenkins, said they consider the homeless their congregation.

“We want to be able to share our faith with those who are in need and also provide sustenance, which is a commandment of our faith,” says Jenkins.

But city officials say they want the groups to continue feeding the homeless, they just want it done indoors, which Mayor Michael Nutter says makes it easier to address the larger problem.

“If we work in a collaborative spirit, we can help insure that people get the food and the services they need,” Nutter says.

The plaintiffs have argued that there is not sufficient indoor space and no plan for providing other services.

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