Tuesday, March 15, 2016

9th Circuit Rules In Favor of Church's Homeless Ministry

In Harbor Missionary Church Corp. v. City of San Buena Ventura, (9th Cir., March 14, 2016), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the district court abused its discretion when it refused to issue a preliminary injunction to allow a church to continue to operate its homeless ministry from the same site as its church building. The city had denied a conditional use permit to the church. The appeals court said in part:
The Church asserts that its religion calls for it “to provide for both spiritual and temporal needs together.” 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....
The district court abused its discretion when it concluded, without analysis, that a complete denial of the conditional use permit was the least restrictive means by which the City could further its compelling interest in public safety. On remand, the district court should ... detail why the conditional use permit recommended by the City’s staff would or would not sufficiently protect the neighborhood from any negative effects shown to be the result of the Church’s ministry to the homeless.