Arresting clergy who feed the homeless, city gets slapped with major lawsuit

In early November the South Florida city of Fort Lauderdale became the center of national attention for enforcing its new ordinance that prohibits feeding the homeless unless it is done in government designated facilities.

Episcopal minister Mark Sims has been arrested multiple times for defying the new law, but now he has help fighting to get it abolished. 

Local attorneys Bill Scherer and Bruce Rogow will sue the city on behalf of the minister. 

“This statute, this law in the city, is unconstitutional,” Scherer told Local 10 News. “It’s nonsense. It’s trying to restrict the feeding programs so the homeless will not gather (in public), and will go somewhere else so we will not see them,” Scherer continued. 

The law violates the U.S. Constitution as well as the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act, according to Scherer.

“The homeless people are not being treated equally with the rest of the community,” he told Local 10 News.

Sims has deeper moral reasons for standing his ground.

“We are simply trying to feed people who are hungry,” Sims told the Sun Sentinel. “To criminalize that is contrary to everything that I stand for as a priest and as a person of faith.”

The city’s mayor, Jack Seiler, defended the controversial law.

“I’m not satisfied with having a cycle of homeless in city of Fort Lauderdale,” Seiler told the Sun Sentinel. “Providing them with a meal and keeping them in that cycle on the street is not productive.”

The city has received extreme backlash from outraged people all over the country after the first arrests were reported. Beginning this week, they can watch the saga play out in court.

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