Lawsuit filed against city of Fort Lauderdale over homeless feeding ordinance

Suit alleges ordinance violates U.S. Constitution, Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – As the city of Fort Lauderdale contends with international backlash after it began criminally charging ministers and several others with feeding the homeless in public, it now has a major lawsuit on its hands.

The lawsuit filed by prominent local attorneys Bill Scherer and Bruce Rogow alleges that Fort Lauderdale's controversial anti-homeless feeding ordinance violates both the U.S. Constitution and the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

"This statute, this law in the city, is unconstitutional," Scherer told Local 10 News investigative reporter Bob Norman.

"On what grounds is this unconstitutional?" asked Norman.

"The entire constitution that we learn in law school -- freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of association, due process, equal protection --  I mean, the homeless people are not being treated equally with the rest of the community," said Scherer.

Scherer, who is representing Episcopal minister Mark Sims, who is one of the first to be charged with feeding the homeless in public, said the city's claim that it's about health and safety is simply a cover for the real aim.

"It's nonsense. It's trying to restrict the feeding programs so the homeless will not gather (in public), and will go somewhere else so we will not see them," said Scherer.

A court hearing on the new lawsuit is expected sometime next week.

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