Judge: No More Free Meals
“No good deed goes unpunished.” Clare Boothe Luce said it best.
Crossroads United Methodist Church in Phoenix, Arizona, has been ordered by a court to close its dining hall where it serves a free pancake breakfast for the homeless.
The reason for this insane ruling? Zoning.
The area where the church is located -- Central and Northern avenues -- is zoned as primarily residential. Charity dining halls are considered businesses.
The church's weekly pancake worship service started causing controversy last spring when neighbors complained the influx of homeless people in the neighborhood caused panhandling, burglary, public intoxication and vandalism, among other things.
“(Are we) discriminating against people who are poor and who don’t have homes, because we don’t like what we feel when we see them?” Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank wrote on her blog, "We can hold a worship service for them out on the front lawn. We just can’t feed them. We can’t fill their bellies with warm food. We might as well just go to the street corners and start handing out money, in hopes they will make their way to some food, because you are not allowed to do it at church!"
Rev. Frank went on to write, “...when we give food to the hungry and poor, that somehow redefines us as a “charity dining hall”…who among us can eat at church? Can we put a donut or a sip of coffee in our mouths when we can’t do the same for the poor? In good conscience, can we eat anything on church property if we can only give food to the well-off and wealthy?”
Crossroads has until November 24 to appeal the decision but has not decided if they will continue to fight the judge's ruling.
Either way this may not be the end of this controversy. The court's decision sets a precedence and may affect all of the churches located in residential areas. If that happens, the homeless can only hope the churches move their kitchens instead of closing them altogether.
As Rev. Frank wrote on her blog, “My, my, my! What have we come to?”