Friday, February 03, 2023

Faith-Based Resource Center for Homeless Sues Over Right to Serve Snacks to Its Clients

Suit was filed this week in a California federal district court by a Resource Cener for impoverished and disabled individuals alleging that the city of Santa Ana has violated its rights under RLUIPA and the First Amendment by insisting that it stop serving snacks to its clients in order to receive a Certificate of Occupancy, even though it had been operating without one for 15 years.  The complaint (full text) in Micha's Way v. City of Santa Ana, (CD CA, filed 1/30/2023), asks for an injunction and declaratory relief.  Voice of OC, reporting on the lawsuit, summarizes the allegations in the 44-page complaint:

For years, homeless people would come by the red roof house on 4th Street in Santa Ana for help with the basics: Personal documents, mail collection, maybe motel vouchers on a good day.

And on their way back out the door, they’d likely take a pastry from the faith-based center called Micah’s Way — a small parting token in the service of Christian ministry, but an unpermitted property use in the eyes of Santa Ana city officials....

On Monday, Micah’s Way attorney Edmond Connor filed a lawsuit against the city, citing federal protections for religious exercises like feeding and sheltering the homeless.

It accuses city officials of scapegoating Micah’s Way for neighborhood impacts from a nearby needle exchange program.