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Churches Accuse Philadelphia of Discriminating Against Homeless Ministries

Lawsuit alleges new city regulations are meant to remove the homeless from areas around tourist attractions.

A group of churches and religious leaders are suing Philadelphia over new regulations on feeding programs in public parks, which the churches say effectively prohibit their efforts to feed the homeless.

In March, the Philadelphia Department of Health passed the new regulations, which heavily restrict outdoor feeding programs but make exceptions for picnics, permitted events, office lunches, and lunch trucks. On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of the churches, alleging the restrictions violate First Amendment rights because they target religiously sponsored feeding programs, many of which have been in place for more than a decade.

Additionally, the suit accused Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter of using the restrictions to try to remove the homeless from areas near tourist attractions.

Last fall, CT reported on the shrinking number of feeding programs and shelters for the homeless, despite the best efforts of churches and religious ministries to keep such programs available after cuts in government funding.

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