Guilty of intent to commit charity?
The following NPR story caught my eye:
A 78-year-old woman is taking Bullhead City, Ariz., to court over her arrest earlier this year for feeding the homeless community at a local public park.
The Institute for Justice wants a federal court to effectively end the city ordinance that prohibits Norma Thornton from giving food to the hungry in a public park.
Why would there be a law against feeding the homeless in a public park? Shouldn’t that sort of activity be praised?
You might wonder if the government is worried that the shared food might be unsanitary. In fact, there is no regulation against sharing food in a public park; the rule forbids sharing food for charitable purposes. It’s the charitable intent that is the crime, not the food sharing:
In March, Thornton was stopped by police and arrested, charged with violating a local ordinance that makes it illegal to share prepared food in a public park “for charitable purposes” without a permit.
Young men at a fraternity party can share all the food they like among their members, without any fear of arrest.
I suspect that the real concern here is not food safety; rather city officials simply don’t want poor people in the public park. And I also suspect that anti-poor bias motivates much of our public policy:
1. It is now widely accepted that residential zoning restrictions are not motivated by the need to prevent polluting factories from locating near to residential areas. Rather the intend is and has always been to prevent low-income people from moving into middle class neighborhoods.
2. It is perfectly legal for a wealthy man to give expensive gifts to his mistress, but a prostitute and a blue collar worker would be arrested for doing essentially the same thing in a less sophisticated fashion. The public policy goal doesn’t seem at all related to the concept of sex for money; rather it’s about keeping “low class” women out of “respectable” neighborhoods.
3. A Hollywood star with a drug problem is sent to “rehab”. A low-income teenager selling pot is sent to prison.
Anti-poor bias seems to cross party lines. You find it among conservative politicians who claim to favor “liberty” and among progressive homeowners with BLM signs in their front yard. It is one thing that the elites in both parties actually agree on.