Residents say the homeless create blight and pose a danger to them, pointing to the case of a homeless felon caught with child pornography in the neighborhood. A complaint prompted city officials to order the year-old breakfast halted, saying it violated zoning laws.
"We're glad in the city that they're trying to help out," says Patrick Ravenstein, the city's area manager for neighborhood preservation. "However, the type of help they're giving can only be conducted in a certain zoning district."
Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the Nashville-based First Amendment Center, said such spats have become quite common across the country since Congress passed the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act in 2000.
The law gives religious groups a high level of protection in zoning cases and forces cities to show there's a compelling reason, such as public safety, to restrict them.
So years of providing food for the homeless and one person's disgusting actions will be used as "proof" that there is a legitimate public safety concern having poor people bussed into the community.
There is another question raised here, and that is the right to assemble. While receiving food from the church, homeless folks also get a plate-full of sermons. I would imagine the Church has a very legitimate argument that it directly restricts their right to assemble and practice religion.