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IPFS News Link • Homeless

Federal Court Upholds Cruel, Unconstitutional St. Louis Ban on Sharing Food with Homeless

• https://reason.com, BAYLEN LINNEKIN

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court upheld a St. Louis ban on sharing "potentially hazardous" foods with the homeless and less fortunate, Courthouse News reports. The ban was challenged by Pastor Raymond Redlich and a colleague, who believe they have both a duty and a right to provide food to people in need.

The suit grew out of a Halloween 2018 incident in which police ticketed Redlich and Christopher Ohnimus, both employees of New Life Evangelical Center in St. Louis, and ordered them to appear in court for handing out bologna sandwiches to homeless people. The citation alleged the pair was "'operating [without a] permit,' and that probable cause for arrest existed for 'operating prepared food [without] proper permits.'"

While the city later agreed not to prosecute the pair, Redlich and Ohnimus sued anyways to protect their right to continue sharing food with those in need. They allege the city ban violates their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments—including their freedom of religion, expression, and association.

Last year, the U.S. District Court in St. Louis ruled in favor of the city. This month, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court ruling, holding "government regulation of 'inherently expressive' conduct—such as distributing sandwiches to the homeless—does not necessarily violate the First Amendment if the regulation furthers 'an important or substantial government interest' unrelated to the suppression of free expression."

"Some might think that the suit is a lot of baloney, but it… raises interesting issues," St. Louis city attorney Julian Bush told St. Louis Today in 2019, shortly after the lawsuit was filed against the city.


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