By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
August 29, 2013
If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
RALEIGH — A Christian ministry that was threatened with arrest for passing out biscuits to the homeless in Raleigh’s Moore Square on Aug. 24 has now been told that charitable groups can feed the hungry in the park without purchasing an $800 permit while city leaders seek a long-term solution to the issue.
The announcement came from the City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee after some 250 people showed up at a public hearing Wednesday to speak out about the Aug. 24 incident involving Love Wins Ministries.
According to the group’s web site, Love Wins representatives arrived at Moore Square at 9 a.m. just as they have nearly every Saturday and Sunday for the past six years, with support from nearly a half dozen large area churches. But on that day, three Raleigh police officers told them that if they attempted to distribute food, they would be arrested.
Love Wins leaders reported that they knew they couldn’t use the park without a permit, so for the past six years they have set up on the public sidewalk instead and cleaned up after themselves. They had no idea why the rules suddenly changed on Aug. 24 or what ordinance they could be violating.
According to WRAL, Raleigh has had a law on the books since 1998 prohibiting distribution of food in a city park without a permit. Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown apparently told officers to start enforcing the rule, but to first educate volunteers before making arrests.
However, those trying to hand out food said they were told under no uncertain terms that they would be arrested if they didn’t stop immediately and leave the area.
Once Love Wins shared their story on the Internet, supporters began phoning and e-mailing Mayor Nancy McFarlane and City Council members, which led to Wednesday’s public hearing and the decision to place a moratorium on the “no feeding in the park” ordinance.
“While this decision is not ideal for the long term, we do look forward to collaborating with Mayor McFarlane and the City Council to craft a sustainable solution that benefits all of Raleigh’s citizens,” wrote Rev. Hugh Hollowell, Love Wins’ director on the organization’s blog after the hearing.
“Until that happens, we’re just happy that we get to share a meal with our friends in Moore Square.”
The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, commended Love Wins and the nearly 30 other ministries involved in feeding the homeless in Moore Square, and said their willingness to stand up for the rights of citizens to use the park will make all the difference.
“Love Wins has said they are not satisfied with the status quo, nor should we be when there is opportunity to serve and to right wrongs in our community,” Dr. Creech said. “Too often faith-based organizations get pushed to the side for one reason or another when they are laboring to meet some need. We trust that Raleigh officials won’t do that to Love Wins or others who are striving to care for ‘the least of these.'”
The Christian Action League will continue to follow this issue.