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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Welcome INN Threatened

On May 9, 2008, Los Angeles Times staff writer Susannah Rosenblatt reported that a group plans to sue over an order to stop feeding the homeless at Doheny State Beach. Members of the faith-based nonprofit Welcome INN were threatened with arrest under a law that regulates assembling in California state parks.

The faith-based organization Welcome INN provided meals in the park's picnic area on two consecutive evenings in February without incident, according to the legal complaint filed this week by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union.

On the third night, a park ranger blocked volunteers from unloading food from their cars, telling the group it was engaging in "unlawful assembly," and threatening citation and arrest, the complaint states.

"We're all incredibly disappointed," said Jim Seiler, president of Welcome INN, which stands for Interfaith Needs Network. "All we're trying to do is . . . fulfill our religious obligation and take care of the people."

The suit seeks to overturn what the ACLU terms it as an "unconstitutionally broad" state law that regulates assembling in state parks.

The group has been offering hot meals, plus social services help and Bibles, to about 50 homeless or low-income people -- many of them regular visitors -- in the Capistrano Beach area of south Orange County California for nearly two decades.

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