Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Greater Phoenix Chapter

Old Home Home Contact Us Upcoming
Church State Issues Report Church State Violations Join
Email List
Email List
Membership Donations Request
Facebook Meetup Links Send Letter to Editor


Church State Issues

Woman Fined For Feeding The Homeless

Apr 18, 2015

Counter Current News

Woman Fined For Feeding The Homeless Tells Police: ‘This Is My Church and This Is How I Pray’

April 18, 2015 8:45 am·

Joan Cheever was recently stopped and cited by police for the “crime” of feeding the homeless. But this a San Antonio woman accused police of infringing on her free exercise of religion, which requires her to feed the homeless.

Cheever said that she received a citation Tuesday for literally nothing other than feeding the homeless. She now faces a penalty that could reach up to $2,000.

But Cheever told the officers who arrived at the scene to ticket her, that she has “a legal right to do this.”

Police officer Mike Marrota disagreed. To him, whatever the state says, goes… even if it contradicts the Constitution that he swore to uphold.

Cheever told Texas Public Radio, that when Officer Marrota asked what she meant by that statement, she cited the state’s own Religious Freedom and Restoration Law, which reaffirms her Constitutional right to religious liberty. Since her religion tells her that it is an obligation to feed the homeless, citing her for doing so is a violation of the Constitution, as well as the Religious Freedom and Restoration Law.

“I have a law degree, I gave them, memorandums of law telling them why they can’t do this,” Cheever explained to Mic.

“I don’t believe that the anti-gay use of Religious Freedom and Restoration Law was appropriate,” she explained further. That’s because she claims religions to not require people to not serve people they disagree with. But they do, however, require them to feed the homeless.

That’s part of the reason why Cheever started a nonprofit called The Chow Train.

“With me and the chow train, I don’t care if you’re gay or straight, Jew Buddhist, Communist, Christian, the only thing we care about is, are you hungry,” she said.

The 501(c)(3) organization serves food to San Antonio’s homeless population every Tuesday. But the cops were not moved by the religious act of charity. They “said ‘Ma’am, if you want to pray, go to church.'”

She quickly retorted: “I was raised Catholic, I still consider myself Catholic. This is my church and this is how I pray.”

The officers were again unmoved. They cited Cheever for serving food without a permit.

As it turns out though, she did have a permit that is up to date and valid. That permit says she absolutely can serve food. She showed a copy to the officers.

“They didn’t really know what to charge me with,” she added.

Officer Marrota didn’t back down. He basically said “tell it to the judge,” saying that she could present this permit in court on June 23.