In the land of the free, charity is a criminal act.
Bullhead City, AZ — In a logical and reasonable world, acts of kindness should be spotlighted and celebrated. Those carrying them out should be praised and their actions should set an example for all to follow. Unfortunately, however, we do not live in a reasonable world, and acts of kindness are oftentimes met with force, loss of freedom, and sheer tyranny — just ask 78-year-old Norma Thornton.
For much of her life, Norma has been dedicating her time to helping those in need. As she moved from city to city throughout her 78 years on Earth, Norma would befriend the homeless population in each town and feed them. She cooks homemade meals, cleans their laundry, helps them connect with social services, and more.
For decades, Norma has improved the lives of countless individuals who have found themselves down on their luck. But when she got to Bullhead City, Ariz., all that changed. Because Bullhead City officials are not reasonable, Norma was kidnapped by armed agents of the state and threatened with being thrown in a cage — for giving hungry people food.
In Bullhead City, tyrannical officials have deemed it a criminal misdemeanor—punishable by fines and even imprisonment—to share prepared food in a public park “for charitable purposes.”
Highlighting the sheer lack of reason and logic is the “charitable purposes” portion of this ordinance. Norma could invite 150 of her friends and relatives to the park, cook for them, and feed them all and she wouldn’t be in violation of any law. But if those friends are homeless, the act becomes charitable, and therefore illegal.
Luckily, the folks with Institute for Justice have taken up Norma’s case and they are suing the city over this cruel and inhumane law.
“The city has criminalized kindness,” said IJ Attorney Diana Simpson. “People have a right to feed those in need and have been doing so for the entirety of human history. People have a fundamental right to engage in charity, which is protected by the Constitution. There is absolutely no valid reason for Bullhead City to crack down on Norma’s act of compassion.”
“Norma saw a way to provide a private solution to a major issue in her community, and she must not be punished for helping these people,” said IJ Attorney Suranjan Sen. “How to solve homelessness is a difficult question with various answers, but Bullhead City’s law certainly isn’t the right one. Cities should encourage private solutions to homelessness, not prevent these efforts.”
Through her lawsuit, Norma is seeking to overturn the city’s ordinance that criminalizes being kind. According to the lawsuit, banning charity is a violation of her rights to due process, privileges and immunities of citizenship, and equal protection secured by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Norma asks the court to (1) declare that Bullhead City’s ordinance criminalizing the charitable sharing of food in public parks is unconstitutional and (2) enjoin the city from enforcing it against Norma or anyone else. She merely wants to be able to continue serving food to those in need where they are.
The Institute for Justice has morality, logic and reason on its side and they have won several cases like this one before. But as the last three years have proven, having morality, logic and reason on your side is no guarantee of success.
Unfortunately, in the land of the free, feeding the homeless has become a revolutionary act. Cities across the country are cracking down on good people who want to feed the needy.
As we’ve previously reported, the Dallas, Texas city council enacted Ordinance No. 29595, which makes it illegal to serve food to the homeless without jumping through a statist myriad of bureaucratic hoops, including a fee, training classes, and written notices.
However, the folks over at the aptly named organization Don’t Comply, took to the streets just outside the Austin Street Shelter in Dallas, while well armed, and successfully fed thousands of homeless people.
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