Religious Exemption to City Ordinance

Early last week I watched a news story on the local news about American Atheists suing the City of Jacksonville again. I haven't been able to find any more information, despite visiting the website of the station and even writing to the webmaster about the story, so I will have to summarize it from memory.

At some point in the past, the city passed an ordinance which made it illegal to give food to the homeless without a permit, to ensure that they were not given anything unsanitary. Either last year or earlier this year, a religious group complained that this ordinance interfered with their right to practice their religion which commanded them to help the poor. The city then revised this ordinance by granting exceptions for anyone motivated by “bona fide religious faith.” American Atheists subsequently sued the city for violation of the separation of church and state by granting this religious exemption. The story didn't say what happened because the case was not yet closed.

I have several complaints about the exemption. First, it gives preference to religion by waiving the application fee for the permit for religious groups. Second, it provides no basis for distinguishing “bona fide” faith from any other variety of faith. Third, it's impossible to determine motivation for charitable acts at all. The city should either revoke the exemption or repeal the ordinance altogether.



vjack said...

I found this: http://tinyurl.com/2uhzt8

Secular Planet said...

I found that, but nothing more recent about the American Atheists suit. Thanks for the link though.