NC Church Group Threatened with Arrest for Feeding the Homeless

August 26th, 2013

Nowadays, virtually anything could be declared illegal in the Land of the Free. Americans might go to jail for collecting rainwater, cleaning trash off of their property (if it has been declared a wetlands by the EPA), or selling raw milk directly from a cow. In fact, there are so many criminal laws these days that it’s almost impossible for any individual to know them all.

Last Saturday, a church group in North Carolina came face-to-face with another crazy city ordinance, this time cracking down on charities that provide free food to the homeless. Love Wins Ministries has convened at Moore Square in Raleigh, NC for the past six years to provide free coffee and breakfast sandwiches to homeless individuals in the area. However, the church’s unchecked charity rampage was finally put to a stop by government officials this weekend, who threatened participants with arrest if they went forward with their plot to feed the needy.

Arbitrary Government Gone Crazy

Most folks believe that well-intended laws will never be applied in destructive ways. However, government officials often follow the law to the letter and apply no reasonable discretion when the effect of the law runs counter to good public policy. Obviously, North Carolina voters never intended to ban the feeding of the homeless. However, an obscure ordinance, aimed at raising city revenues, requires anyone distributing food in a public park to purchase a permit costing $800 per day.

For years, Love Wins Ministries has carried out its free food giveaway for area homeless on the sidewalk next to the park, out of respect for the city’s bizarre ordinance. However, police officers apparently decided that the church’s charity work had gone on long enough and began enforcing the ban on the sidewalk as well. On Saturday, the church group brought 100 sausage biscuits and gallons of coffee, and a line of poverty-stricken, hungry folks queued up, waiting to be nourished. Police shut the event down, warning the charity providers that anyone caught feeding the homeless would be arrested.

The Government Wants Its Cut First

At issue in this incident is an $800 daily rate that the city charges for permits to distribute food in the park. This might make sense in the case of a food vendor that intends to use the public park to generate profits, but in the case of a charity, this fee is prohibitive. Love Wins Ministries hands out free food twice a week, and paying that fee would cost the church $1600 per week, more than the church group pays for food and coffee.

In this case, it appears that the local government is more concerned with its own revenues than the quality of life of people in the community. If government allegedly aims to provide for the poor, why is it effectively criminalizing voluntary charity? The church was not informed as to which ordinances it would have been breaking had members handed out food on the sidewalk adjacent to the park. Love Wins Ministries’ members were forced to tell the crowd of hungry and homeless people that the food couldn’t be given to them that day.

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About the Author: Barry Donegan

Barry Donegan is a singer for the experimental mathcore band Look What I Did, a writer, a self-described "veteran lifer in the counterculture", a political activist/consultant, and a believer in the non-aggression principle.