Zoning Officials Threaten Churches With Fines For Providing Charity

Two men receive a free meal from St. Anthony Foundation in San Francisco. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Melanie Wilcox Contributor
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Zoning officials in Pottstown, Pennsylvania told two churches in early June they will face fines if they continue to provide free meal services, mental health counseling and monthly pantries, WHYY reported.

Mission First and Christ Episcopal—both located in Montgomery County—received citations from the Pottstown Borough for violating the zoning code’s definition of a “church,” WHYY reported. (RELATED: Two Georgia Churches Raided By FBI)

“I am writing this letter with compassion for those affected by the COVID pandemic and with gratitude to residents who’ve provided aid to those in need throughout that period,” Pottstown Zoning Officer Winter Stokes wrote in a letter to one of the churches which was obtained by WHYY. “However, as the Zoning Officer, I must enforce the zoning code.”

In the letter, Stokes wrote that mental health counseling is considered a “Social Service Provider” and that he could not find approvals for the other services. He also said the definition of a church is a place where people “assemble regularly for religious worship” and that these churches are “more than that.”

“Everything we do is what a church should be doing…We’re feeding the needy… We’re helping the community,” Clare Schilling, director of Mission First, told WHYY.

The churches have until July 10 to contest the citation or appeal to the board, according to the letter.