Federal Lawsuit Filed Over Attempts To Feed St. Louis' Homeless

"It is one of the bedrock ideas of Christianity, and in fact the Bible says that in giving food to even the least of these you are giving food to Jesus himself."

Brett Blume
January 08, 2019 - 11:47 am

(KMOX/Brett Blume)

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) -  Ray Redlich says he had only the purest of intentions at heart when he and fellow volunteer Chris Ohnimus handed out baloney sandwiches to the homeless population in downtown St. Louis last Halloween.

"I call it ministering to people," according to Redlich. "That means serving. We're ministering to the people on the streets, both on the spiritual dimension and also materially."

Both men were ticketed by St. Louis city police that night and ordered to make a court appearance.

Related: St. Louis Minister in Court After He Fed The Homeless

Now, Freedom Center of Missouri attorney Dave Roland has filed a federal lawsuit on their behalf.

"The 11th circuit court of appeals a couple of months ago ruled that sharing food with the needy is itself an act of expressive conduct," Roland said during a press conference outside New Life Evangelistic Center at 1411 Locust. "It is protected by the First Amendment. It is one of the bedrock ideas of Christianity, and in fact the Bible says that in giving food to even the least of these you are giving food to Jesus himself. That's why it's so crucial to these gentlemens' faith."

Roland compared preparing food and handing it out to homeless persons to hosting a backyard barbecue.

He said the homeless should have the same right to make up their own minds whether they want to eat any food that's been given to them.

"You cannot require citizens to get the government's permission before they engage in a charitable act that is not only fundamental to their practice but that is also pro-social," Roland said.

After Redlich and Ohnimus appeared for their court dates last month, they learned that the city counselor's office had decided not to pursue the case against them - but they're filing suit in federal court anyway.