By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Testimony began today in federal court in Philadelphia, in a case challenging the City of Philadelphia’s ban on giving food to groups of people outdoors (see related story).

Religious groups claim the ban interferes with their free exercise of religion because it prevents them from fulfilling their mission of feeding the hungry.

Religious leaders have asked for a temporary injunction to halt new city regulations that bar “the free distribution of food to three or more members of the public” on city parklands (another related story).

The regulations are aimed at feeding programs for the homeless that regularly take place in Love Park and near Logan Circle.

Rev. Violet Little testified today that she doesn’t consider the people she feeds mere “members of the public” but rather members of her congregation, and the park her “church without walls.”

“If this happens there’s the harm of eliminating a congregation that we’ve worked hard to form,” she said afterward to KYW Newsradio.

Defending the ban, deputy mayor Mike DiBerardinis says public meals degrade the park and stress the limited resources the city has to provide high quality green space for all citizens.


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