03/14/2016: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules in favor of Church with homeless ministry
On March 14, 2016, the federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a decision denying a preliminary injunction to the Harbor Missionary Church in San Buenaventura, California, which was denied a conditional use permit to operate its homeless ministry. The Church sought to provide spiritual guidance and other basic needs--clothing, food, showers, counseling and other support--to the city's homeless men and women:
The district court erred by questioning the validity of the Church’s religious beliefs and by determining that its homeless ministry could be divided piecemeal when the Church insisted on the importance of keeping its homeless ministry as a whole at the same location. . . . Currently, if the
Church wishes to conduct its homeless ministry—a ministry the Church believes to be an integral part of its religious exercise—the Church must relocate. In addition to selling its current property, the Church would have to raise an estimated $1.4 million to relocate, an expense the City does not dispute. The substantial cost associated with relocating the site of the Church demonstrates that the denial of the conditional use permit substantially burdens the Church’s religious exercise.
S&G worked with the Stanford Law School's Religious Liberty Clinic in protecting the Harbor Missionary Church's rights.
The Court of Appeals' decision is located here.