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Priest sues city over law to stop feeding the hungry in public

Priest sues city over law to stop feeding the hungry in public

The Rev. Canon Mark H. Sims, rector of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs, Florida, is suing the city of Fort Lauderdale for the right to continue to feed the homeless on city streets.

Sims told the Episcopal News Service Nov. 13 that he has hired local attorneys Bill Scherer, a well-known trial lawyer, and Bruce Rogow, a constitutional lawyer who teaches at Nova Southeastern University, to defend him “in court against a criminal citation I was issued.

“I want to fight the constitutionality of the ordinance that was passed. As someone issued a citation I have standing and I’m going to use that opportunity.”

Scherer told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel that the city ordinance, passed Oct. 31, which bans feeding of homeless in public places, is unconstitutional and discriminatory.

Local law enforcement officials halted Sims and two others from feeding homeless residents in Stranahan Park on Nov. 2. Sims, 57, said he was detained by police, fingerprinted, issued the citation and released. He is awaiting a court appearance date and faces a $500 fine and a possible 60 days in jail.

“If I get sentenced to jail, I’m going to jail,” Sims said. “But, I’m willing to stay there [in jail] for the right to compassionately feed people who are living on the street,” he added.

City officials have said they want feeding programs moved indoors but Sims and others say there are simply not enough locations to accommodate growing numbers of homeless families and individuals.

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