Panel rules against church leaders who gave bologna sandwiches to homeless

The city of St. Louis did not violate the First Amendment rights of a Christian pastor and his assistant by threatening to prosecute them for handing out bologna sandwiches to the homeless, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

Pastor Raymond Redlich, vice president of the New Life Christian Evangelical Center, and his assistant, Christopher Ohnimus, were distributing bologna sandwiches and bottles of water to the homeless in October 2018 when they were cited by a police officer for violating a city ordinance regulating the distribution by temporary establishments of potentially hazardous food, such as meat, poultry, eggs or fish.

Although the city opted not to prosecute Redlich and Ohnimus for violating the ordinance, they nonetheless sued the city in federal court saying the ordinance violates their rights of free expression and religious exercise under the First Amendment.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Nanette A. Baker in St. Louis granted the city’s motion to dismiss the complaint on summary judgment last year, finding Redlich and Ohnimus did not prove that their fundamental right to association was at issue.

The two men appealed that ruling to the St. Louis-based Eighth Circuit, arguing at a hearing in June that the enforcement of the ordinance against them interferes with their ability to communicate their message about God’s love and concern for those in need.

In Wednesday’s ruling, a three-judge panel ruled 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.

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Author: HP McLovincraft

Seeker of rabbit holes. Pessimist. Libertine. Contrarian. Your huckleberry. Possibly true tales of sanity-blasting horror also known as abject reality. Prepare yourself. Veteran of a thousand psychic wars. I have seen the fnords. Deplatformed on Tumblr and Twitter.

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