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A northern California church, Mercy Way Rescue, has found itself victorious in a fight with the city in Placerville over a conditional use permit it needed to minister to the city’s homeless.
Just a month ago, the Placerville Planning Commission denied Mercy Way Rescue the permit, putting the church at risk of being shut down immediately, even though the planning department’s staff report had recommended the permit be issued.
Pacific Justice Institute, a non-profit legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom, intervened on behalf of the church with a letter informing the city of the potential legal issues under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and well as the state and federal constitutions.
Mercy Way Rescue’s mission is to “spread the good new and unconditional love, grace and unmerited mercy of Jesus to the homeless, poor, hungry, mentally ill and addicted people of El Dorado County.”
The church began as an offshoot of a program called F.A.I.T.H. (Feeding and Inspiring the Homeless) alongside Foothills United Methodist Church and other organizations in the area that worked to provide one meal a day to homeless members of the community.
During the December meeting commissioner accused Mercy Way Rescue of masquerading as a church and questioned what types of congregants it would attract, according to the Pacific Justice Institute.
“It’s not just illegal to base a planning decision on the members of a church, it’s an outrage! There should be a public outcry anytime a planning commission considers demographics in their decision for a church to be established,” Brad Dacus, president of PJI, said.
But city officials this week overruled their commission, and Mercy Way Rescue Pastor Frank Gates told WND he is very pleased with council decision, released last night.
“We are happy with the results and look forward to continuing our ministry. We are grateful for the support we’ve received from our community and all the work done by our legal counsel Michael Faber and Pacific Justice Institute,” Gates said.
See Gates describe the problem facing the church: