Church fights to provide shelter services

    A church near Pottstown has filed a lawsuit against its township for what it says is a violation of its constitutional rights.

    A church near Pottstown has filed a lawsuit against its township for what it says is a violation of its constitutional rights. The church would like to house homeless people in the winter months, but the township says that violates building codes.

    Listen:
    [audio: 090504pcchurch.mp3]

    An alliance of churches near Pottstown open themselves to the homeless in the winter on a monthly rotating basis. But the North Coventry Township told Shenkel United Church of Christ that it could not participate as a residence because they don’t have fire-safety sprinklers.

    Attorney Lou Moffa represents the church. He says the building is an assembly hall, not a residence, and the township is getting in the way of its freedom to express religion.

    Moffa: Ministering to the homeless is a big part of their religious exercises. A local government or state government cannot burden the exercise of that religious practice by land use regulation.

    The township says if people sleep at the site it changes the building use from assembly to residence. The church is asking for an expedited preliminary hearing so it can be resolved before next winter.

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