A public backlash that erupted when a Phoenix inspector banned a Christian from giving away bottles of water on a hot day to passersby at a “First Friday” festival has prompted city officials to drop the restriction.
The Rutherford Institute, which announced the victory, intervened on behalf of Dana Crow-Smith, a Christian who explained she was following a biblical instruction (Matthew 10:42) to do small acts of kindness.
She chose to hand out bottles of cold water to passersby during a city festival when the temperatures reached 112 degrees.
But she was ordered to stop by a city inspector, who said she was required first to get a vendor’s permit. But the institute pointed out that not only did the action violate Crow-Smith’s statutory and First Amendment rights as well as Fourteenth Amendment rights, but vending in the city is defined as “peddling, vending, selling, displaying, or offering for sale” items.
She was giving away the water, officials noted.
The institute reported city council members struck the ordinance, voting unanimously to create an exception to the city’s policy of requiring a “Mobile Vendor Permit” for persons selling goods on public streets.
“This victory in Phoenix shows that one person can stand up and change government for the better,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “This is proof that the democratic process not only can work but is working, provided that Americans care enough to take a stand and make their discontent heard.
“The best way to ensure that your government officials hear you is by never giving up, never backing down, and never remaining silent. As Samuel Adams pointed out, ‘It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brushfires in people’s minds.’”
Crow-Smith was assembled with other Christians at a Phoenix “First Friday” festival in July to publicly express her Christian faith and engage willing passersby in conversations about their religious beliefs, Rutherford reported.
“Having read a Bible passage referencing the importance of small acts of kindness such as offering water to the thirsty (Matthew 10:42), Crow-Smith was further moved to offer cold bottles of water to people at the festival who were braving the desert’s scorching 112-degree heat,” the group reported.
But a “Neighborhood Preservation Inspector” shut her down.
When Rutherford protested, City Manager David Cavazos initially doubled down on the policy, claiming that prohibiting Crow-Smith from giving out water was an issue of “fairness” for other persons selling or giving out wares and goods.
However, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton then asked policy makers to review the ordinance. In doing so, council members struck down the prohibition.
The institute had said legal action was a possibility should the city not resolve the dispute.