Religious Freedom Watch: City Sues Church Over Homeless Ministry

Locals in Gastonia, N.C., lined up at a city council meeting to make impassioned pleas on behalf of a faith-based homeless ministry, which has been hit with $60,000 in fines and a lawsuit from the city.

“We are here today because there is a problem,” said Moses Colbert, founder of Faith, Hope, and Love Community Enrichment Ministries (FHLCEM), whose rescue mission in the suburban city near Charlotte has been cited for violating city codes. “We need to help the people who cannot help themselves.”

The pastor was among 17 people who came to a Gastonia City Council meeting on June 20, each taking two minutes during a public comment period to defend the FHLCEM ministry. Reportedly about 100 people receive food and services at the group’s property, formerly the site of St. Paul Baptist Church. Dozens of tents used for shelter are set up behind the building.

In May, the City of Gastonia sued the ministry, stating that the property is not zoned as a homeless shelter and two construction trailers parked outside the church lack required permits. Reportedly the ministry has not paid more than $60,000 in fines. FHLCEM was registered as a nonprofit last November, months afterleaders began to serve the homeless population.

Colbert told the city council that he aims to comply with all relevant regulations. “Stop demonizing this ministry,” he said. “It looks like I’m being discriminated against, but it’s not just me that you’re hurting. These people who need your help are bearing the brunt of it.”

Read more»

Josh Shepherd | “N.C. Community Rallies to Save Church Homeless Ministry Hit With Lawsuit, $60K Fines” | June 29, 2023


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