Bringing an end to almost an eight-year legal battle, the Dallas City Council will vote Wednesday on whether to pay two charity groups $250,000. Big Heart Ministries and Rip Parker Memorial Homeless Ministry sued the city in March 2007, challenging a city ordinance that restricted the ways groups could provide food to the homeless.
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In 2013, U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis ruled in favor of the groups, saying that city violated their rights under the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The $250,000 payment, as well as proposed changes to the city's food safety ordinance, are part of a post-judgement settlement agreed to by the groups and the city. Once the changes are approved, the groups doing the feeding will no longer be required to provide restroom facilities and hand-washing stations and a certified food handler will not be required to be on hand.
Of the settlement, $166,666.66 will go to Big Heart Ministries and Rip Parker Memorial Homeless Ministry and $83,333.34 will go to the lawyers from National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty who represented the plaintiffs.
The settlement, as well as the changes to the food safety ordinance, will take effect immediately after council approval.