It's been eight years since the Dallas City Council passed its homeless feeding ordinance, which barred charity groups from serving food except at certain designated sites. And it's been just more than six years since two of those groups, Big Heart Ministries and Rip Parker Memorial Homeless Ministry, sued the city in federal court over the ban.
The case ended today in a victory for the homeless and those who feed them. As the Morning News first reported, U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis ruled that the city's ordinance amounts to a violation of Big Heart's and Rip Parker Memorial's rights under the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which bars state and local government a government from doing anything that might "substantially burden a person's free exercise of religion."
But the victory is a narrow one. The city's homeless feeding ordinance remains intact, except where it concerns the plaintiffs and, by extension, other groups who feel a religious duty to serve the underfed. Those of you who simply feel sorry for the unhoused, without the backing of religious conviction? Drop those plans to hand out sandwiches on a street corner. You're better off just volunteering at The Stewpot, unless, of course, you enjoy six-year legal battles.
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"I'm totally blessed," Big Heart founder Don Hart told CBS 11. "It's been a great, great, great victory." He plans to resurrect his ministry on Easter Sunday.