Eric Montanez faces a curious criminal charge in Orlando, Florida: feeding hungry people. The good people of Orlando, Florida have decided to join other cities in making it a crime to feed poor and hungry people caught up in this recession. Even at Yellowstone you are simply asked not to feed the bears, but in Orlando feeding the hungry will get you arrested. There was a guy in the New Testament that did such things and look where that got us.
Orlando’s ordinance makes it a crime to feed groups of 25 or more people in parks and other public property within two miles of City Hall without a special permit. While most of the witnesses at the hearing testified against the ordinance, it was supported by a small group of businesses objecting to the gathering of poor people and the trash that they left. (Of course, one could easily see an ordinance that ticketed groups that do not clean up after such distributions of food).
The Orlando ordinance would make Jesus as habitual offender in Orlando. After the twenty-fifth fish was handed out, it apepars that Orlando would have thrown him into the pokey. Matthew 14:13-21 reads like a nightmare of a recidivist food felon in Orlando:
Jesus withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
“Bring them here to me,” he said.
And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
5000! That is a lot more than 25. Unfortunately, those Roman governors were not as vigilant as the Orlando City Council. It may be true that “where two or three have come together in my name” (Matthew 18:20) there may be God, but there will not be lunch if they bring 22 others.
The ordinance can probably pass constitutional review. However, cities have generally allowed food bank so long as they do not prepare food without a permit. They can distribute the food at the site and they are required to clean the surrounding area of resulting trash.
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