Fed. Judge sides with church in Brookings suit

MEDFORD, Ore.- On March 27th, a Federal Judge in Medford, siding with a Brookings church in its long running dispute with the city that tried to stop the congregation from feeding the homeless.

Reverend Lindley says the church has been feeding people since 2009. When the City of Brookings limited the number of days the church could offer that service, Reverend Lindley knew that their faith wouldn’t let them comply with the ordinance.

“We do what churches do, we help people,” Reverend Lindley said.

In October of 2021, the City of Brookings approved of an ordinance that forced churches in residential areas to serve food for no more than two days a week. But St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church had been serving the community four days a week for years, and Reverend Lindley says they knew two days wouldn’t be enough.

“And we never missed a meal,” Reverend Lindley said, “There was never a time that we were scheduled to serve a meal that we didn’t”.

On March 27th, Medford Federal Judge Mark D. Clarke ruled in St. Timothy’s favor and skewered the City of Brookings. He wrote in his conclusion that the city should consider itself fortunate quote:

“To have Reverend Lindley and the entire congregation of St. Timothy’s as compassionate, caring and committed members of the community”.

Reverend Lindley says he was always confident the ruling would go this way.

“We had a very strong feeling from the very beginning that we were living out our faith in a way that’s consistent with the way we’ve been living it out for decades,” Reverend Lindley said, “The things that we do we do because we’re compelled to because of our faith”.

Brookings issued an abatement against the church to stop part of its community services after receiving public complaints.  The city said it tried to work with the church because neighbors complained about the homeless gathering in their residential neighborhood. Reverend Lindley says the church just wants to help these people get back on their feet.

“If we can get somebody, you know, housed, if we can get them so they’re not worried about where their next meal is going to come from, then that person can actually make it to work and can participate in our local economy”.

St. Timothy’s argued that the city’s ordinance violated religious land use and impeded on their religious exercise.  The United States Justice Department even got involved, issuing a Statement of Interest on behalf of the church and asked the judge to rule in St. Timothy’s favor. After commending the congregation, Judge Clarke wrote in his conclusion quote:

“The homeless are not “vagrants,” but are citizens in need. This is a time for collaboration, not ill-conceived ordinances that restrict care and resources for vulnerable people in our communities.”

Reverend Lindley says he couldn’t agree more, and the church is ready to get to work with the city.

“The missing piece is the city,” Reverend Lindley said, “And so, now that this lawsuit is behind us, we’re looking forward to the fact that we’re going to be able to start working with the city so that we can come up with better solutions to the problem of homelessness here in our community”.

NBC5 reached out to Brookings City Hall for an interview or a statement but haven’t heard back yet.

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NBC5 News Reporter Lauren Pretto grew up in Livermore, California and attended University of California, Santa Cruz, graduating with a double major in Film/Digital Media and Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing. Lauren is a lover of books, especially Agatha Christie and Gothic novels. When her nose isn't buried in a book, she knits, bakes, and writes.
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