The Lamp

Where truth can be shared.

More Church Regulation Considered

Posted by thelamp on April 11, 2007

How much should local governments regulate social service activities conducted by churches? Some municipalities are talking about implementing rules to restrict distribution of food by charitable groups, including churches.

According to a recent article in USA Today (Cities set limits on serving food to homeless people), officials in Orlando, Dallas, Las Vegas, and Wilmington, N.C., began enforcing such ordinances last year.

City government has a legitimate responsibility to set standards that ensure safe food handling practices. No one would want a homeless family’s situation to worsen because of illness contracted from eating a contaminated meal. However, requiring volunteers to take a food-handling course – or face a $2,000 fine – may have unintended consequences, such as a dramatic drop in the number for people willing to give their time to help their less fortunate neighbors.

The restrictions under consideration also include limiting where food give-away distribution events can be held, and in some jurisdictions, a permit may be required.

Homelessness isn’t a crime, so those who are enduring hard times shouldn’t be treated like criminals. Public display of compassion ought to be a characteristic that cities promote and publicize rather than shamefully secreted on a quiet street.



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