Federal Court Says We Have a Constitutional Right to Feed the Homeless

August 28, 2018 at 4:35 pm

Appeals court says the political activist organization Food Not Bombs has a First Amendment right to share meals with the homeless in public places

A federal appeals court has ruled that people have a constitutional right to share food with the homeless in public places.

It might seem obvious and strange that a court would even have to rule on such an issue, but it’s not so obvious to the City of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

In 2014, the city became “infamous for cracking down on compassion,” as Forbes Magazine puts it, arresting a 92-year-old man and two ministers for simply trying to share food with the homeless.

The political activist organization Food Not Bombs took the City of Fort Lauderdale to court after the city passed a law banning outdoor feedings of the homeless.

92-year-old Arnold Abbott, whose group Love Thy Neighbor works with Food Not Bombs to feed the homeless on a public beach and downtown, claims he’s practicing his freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Abbott was arrested in 2014 after Fort Lauderdale banned feeding the homeless in public

“I don’t know any religion that doesn’t say feed the poor,” Abbott told the Sun Sentinel.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s decision, saying the trial judge was wrong to dismiss the case on the grounds that the First Amendment didn’t apply.

Now the trial court must reexamine the case and determine whether the city’s ordinances violate the First Amendment.

While the city ordinance may violate the freedom of religion, Food Not Bombs argues it also violates their right to free speech.

The group argues it is not a charity, but a political activism organization, trying to convey a specific political message by feeding the homeless in plain sight, rather than hidden in buildings.

The organization advocates for redirecting the 50 cents of every tax dollar spent on the military toward meeting human needs including feeding and sheltering the homeless.

“We hope we are one step closer to something we’ve fought for over many years — simply being able to help people without being threatened with arrest by people who should be working with us.” Food Not Bombs member Nathan Pim told the Sun Sentinel.