Students Defend Rights of Church to Care for Homeless

Religious Liberty Clinic students successfully filed a high-profile land-use permit application for a Southern California church dedicated to serving the homeless.

Kerrel Murray (’14), James Wigginton (’13), and Manuel Possolo (’13) authored a lengthy and complex permit application defending the right of a non-denominational church to clothe and feed the homeless as part of its religious mission. Eric Hamilton (’13) played a critical supporting role, and the team enlisted the support of the managing partner of Foley & Lardner’s Palo Alto office as a consultant. According to one city official, the application was “as good as anything that has ever been filed here.”

The clinic’s application addresses a church’s ability to minister to the homeless as a form of religious expression, and contends that, contrary to the position of its critics, the church’s activities are consistent with local land-use law and protected by the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The next step in the process will be a series of public meetings and a city council vote, which will be handled by the clinic’s incoming team of students and will likely attract local, and perhaps even national, attention. The remarkable job Kerrel, James, Manny, and Eric did on the application has hopefully set the stage for the church to continue in its mission to serve “the poorest of the poor.”

Jim Sonne directs the Religious Liberty Clinic. Jared Haynie serves as the clinic’s Staff Attorney, and Nicole Riley is the clinic’s Legal Assistant.

Congratulations to all.