St. Timothy’s Church Wins Federal Court Battle Against City of Brookings

Brookings, Ore. — St. Timothy’s Church has won the first round of a protracted legal battle with the City of Brookings about feeding homeless people.

Brookings took the church to court after residents lodged complaints, saying homeless people congregate on the church grounds and surrounding areas, threatening their safety.


Time for Collaboration, Not Ill—Conceived Ordinances

“This is a time of collaboration, not ill-conceived ordinances,” Judge Mark D. Clarke said in his closing after dismissing the City of Brookings lawsuit against the St. Timothy’s Church feeding program for the homeless people of the area.

In his conclusion in the Medford federal court yesterday, Judge Clarke said Brookings was fortunate to have St. Timothy’s as “compassionate, caring, and committed members of the community.

He said St. Timothy’s has been caring for vulnerable people living in Brookings for decades. This included the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, “when there were few, if any, other accessible resources in the area.”

Judge Clarke described homeless people as citizens in need, not vagrants.

St. Timothy’s battle with the city of Brookings began in October 2021, when the council approved an ordinance ordering churches in residential areas to obtain a permit before serving meals to homeless people. The council also restricted churches from providing meals to the needy more than twice a week.

Since that time, St. Timothy’s has remained unmoved by the council restrictions and continued to provide social services to the needy, despite legal repercussions.


Court Ruling Met with Relief and Happiness by the Church

Yesterday’s federal court ruling was met with great relief and happiness by Father Bernie Lindley, the vicar at St. Timothy’s. He expressed hope that future discussions between the church and officials from the City of Brookings would be less “antagonistic.”

In a statement after the court ruling, Father Lindley said that for the last two years, St. Timothy’s had been worried that it would be hampered in its service to people in need. Instead, the church could now proceed with more confidence.


The Legal Battle is Not Yet Over

But this victory is not the end of the legal battle fought by St. Timothy’s against the City of Brookings. The church was served with a notice of abate last year in April for continuing to provide meals to the needy in violation of the council ordinance. St. Timothy’s continued to serve more than two meals a week to the community, despite the threat of being fined $720 a day.

The abatement not only limits the number of meals the church can provide on a weekly basis, but also prevents St. Timothy’s from offering homeless people the use of bathing facilities and other community services. However, Judge Clarke says the City of Brookings cannot impose restrictions that impede St. Timothy’s right to practice its religious beliefs.

Judge Clarke’s ruling yesterday has filled Father Lindley with optimism that the city council will withdraw from the abatement, so putting an end to further legal action.

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