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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Seattle "breached constitutional rights‚Äö?Ñ?? by refusing tent city

September 26 2009
Officials violated a church‘s constitutional rights, the state Supreme Court rules Officials in Seattle violated a church's constitutional rights when they refused to consider a land-use permit to set up a tent city for the homeless, the state Supreme Court ruled on 16th July. The high court unanimously reversed previous findings that had sanctioned the City of Woodinville's temporary ban on development to block the Northshore United Church of Christ's effort to host Tent City 4 in a largely residential area in 2006. The suburb's officials violated a constitutional provision that guarantees "absolute freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief and worship,‚Äö?Ñ?? Justice James M Johnson wrote in City of Woodinville v. Northshore United Church of Christ. Cynthia Riggin, the pastor of the 165-member church, said: "We couldn't be more thrilled. They affirmed our notion that we, as a church, have rights to do our mission and our ministry as we see fit." The residents of the camp, currently set up at a church in Redmond, also applauded the decision. "Who says you can't fight City Hall?" said Bruce Thomas, a spokesperson and long-time resident. "If we were allowed alcohol in camp, we'd have one drunken orgy. But we don't, so we're all sipping root beer." Tent City 4 accommodates approximately 60-100 people. Such encampments have mushroomed in a number of US cities over the last few years. In areas like Seattle and Portland, homeless advocacy groups have teamed up with nonprofits or faith-based groups to manage the tent cities as outdoor shelters.