‘It’s shocking’: Town attacks church for providing temporary shelter

By Bob Unruh

(Pexels)

A lawsuit has been filed against the town of Castle Rock in Colorado, a state with an already-earned infamy for hostility to Christianity, because officials are trying to halt a church from serving those families who suddenly are homeless.

The lawsuit, in U.S. District Court in Colorado, accuses city officials of “apparently operating on the cynical thesis that they do not want the homeless in their area.”

The case is being brought by First Liberty Institute on behalf of the on-site temporary and emergency shelter ministries of “The Rock,” a church that operates on a 54-acre parcel there.

“The town has not only insisted the church end its efforts to offer temporary and emergency shelter for helpless and suddenly homeless people, it has also interfered with its ability to serve as a Red Cross emergency shelter and retaliated against the church by threatening the business license of a coffee service located in the church,” First Liberty reported.

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“Churches that take action to care for the homeless should be encouraged and affirmed, not opposed and retaliated against,” said First Liberty’s Jeremy Dys. “It’s not enough for the town to try to stop this church from using its property to provide temporary shelter to displaced single moms and their children. The town is also trying to prevent the church from partnering with the Red Cross in times of emergency.”

The pastor is Mike Polhemus, and he said in a statement released by his lawyers, “Our mission is to transform society by loving others as Christ loved us. This includes providing such a level of outreach and aid to the surrounding community that, if we ever close our doors, the entire community would feel our church’s absence. It’s shocking that the town is preventing us from providing temporary shelter and wrap-around assistance to people who are in their greatest need, thus helping to reduce homelessness in our community.”

The First Liberty report, in fact, noted that outside of the church’s operations, Castle Rock “has no emergency or temporary shelters within town limits for individuals suddenly without a safe home.”

“Along with providing food, clothes, shoes, financial assistance, and small kitchen items, The Rock works with individuals displaced due to life circumstances to provide a temporary place of shelter in one trailer and one RV parked on the back of the church’s property – more than 400 feet from any resident property. ”

It also works with the Red Cross to provide emergency shelter during severe winter storms.

The lawyers, in a request for a preliminary injunction, explain, “No history or tradition justifies the town’s intrusion into the church’s property to dictate which portions of the church’s property may be used for religious purposes or how the church may go about accomplishing its religious mission. More generally, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, prohibits governmental hostility to religion.”

In fact, it was the U.S. Supreme Court that scolded Colorado for its “hostility” to Christianity in the case involving specialty cake artist Jack Phillips, who was accused of discrimination by refusing to violate his faith and create an endorsement of same-sex marriage.

Literally the same state standard arose in a second Supreme Court ruling, involving web designer 303 Creative, when the high court ruled the state could not impose its beliefs on others.

The complaint explains, “The town’s prohibition of the church’s On-Site Temporary Shelter Ministry and Red Cross Partnership violates the church’s fundamental free-exercise rights, as protected by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act … and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, as well as the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Church brings this lawsuit to vindicate its fundamental free-exercise rights, as protected by RLUIPA and the Free Exercise Clause, as well as the Establishment Clause.”

The lawsuit explains the church runs a variety of ministries, supplying food, housing assistance, clothing and more to the needy, as instructed by the Bible.

It uses an RV and a trailer, parked on a remote part of the church’s property, for those with temporary and emergency housing problems/.

It said the ministries, “manifestly further the health, safety, and welfare of Castle Rock by providing safe, dignified, temporary shelter for needy individuals in the community.”

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