Written by Don Byrd
A church in Ventura, California is fighting to maintain its downtown homeless ministry after the city denied a permit. Harbor Missionary Church for several years used its facility to minister to the poor through day care, laundry and food services with a proper permit, but were denied upon reapplication.
The church is now suing the city, claiming a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the First Amendment.
Courthouse News Service has more:
“Ministering to the poor, both spiritually and physically, has been and continues to be a central tenet of the church’s doctrine, faith, and practice,” the complaint states. “By forcing Harbor to discontinue its ministry to the poor, the city has substantially burdened the church’s religious exercise without a legally justifiable reason…”
The church says it does not have enough money to move. And even if it did, and it decided to move, it could take months to find a new home, secure new permits, and complete renovations or construction work, the lawsuit states.
“In the meantime, Harbor’s congregants need a church. If the church simply shuts its doors, its congregants will have nowhere to go,” the complaint states.