After a woman complained that the City of Phoenix was trampling on her religious rights by not letting her hand out free water without a permit, the city council has decided to create an exemption for water.
Dana Crow-Smith complained after she, along with some of her Christian friends, gathered at one of the First Friday events downtown to "publicly express her Christian faith and engage willing passers-by in conversations about their religious beliefs," which included handing out free bottles of water.
Crow-Smith brought along a cooler full of water bottles, and was following the Good Book's advice found in Matthew 10:42: "And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward."
But a Phoenix "Neighborhood Preservation Inspector" showed up, and told Crow-Smith that she needed a permit to give away water. City officials told New Times that in addition to that, Crow-Smith was distributing religious materials and the water from private property on the corner of 1st Street and Roosevelt, which was not her private property -- a fact that was left out of Crow-Smith's version of events.
However, Crow-Smith claimed that she was being persecuted for her religious beliefs, although the city very much denied that.
Indeed, by all accounts we've seen, council members and the mayor thought the ordinance was a little goofy because, you know, Phoenix is as hot as Hades.
Religious persecution really wasn't the issue, although Crow-Smith and her backers at the Rutherford Institute sure made it sound like it was. The Rutherford Institute's also the organization that was helping "pastor" Michael Salman with his legal trouble -- for alleged religious persecution regarding his backyard church -- although the ex-con Salman moved on to felony charges for alleged AHCCCS fraud.
As far as Phoenix's vending/water ordinance is concerned, though, Crow-Smith wasn't actually cited that night; she was informed of the code, and the city said she agreed to stop handing out water. City staff also had to remind Crow-Smith of the ordinance later that night after finding her on private property again, and giving out water, again, city officials said.
Still, as long as she's hanging out on the sidewalk, she's good to go without the pricy permit.
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