On Saturday mornings, crowds of homeless gather with other needy people at picnic tables outside a church in an upscale Phoenix, Arizona neighborhood, listen to sermons, and settle in for sausage, pancakes, and eggs.
According to the USA Today website, residents say the homeless create blight. A complaint prompted city officials to order the year-long breakfast halted, saying it violated zoning laws.
Now, the dispute is in federal court, with the church saying the city is violating its treasured American rights to freedom of religion, as well as a federal law passed in 2000 that protects religious groups from city zoning rules.
"This is what it means to be a church," says the Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank of the Cross Roads United Methodist Church. "We are just trying to take care of some people who are hungry and trying to reach out to our neighborhood."