A federal judge on Monday denied a request to prohibit the city of Davenport, Senior Planning Manager Matt Flynn, and aldermen Ray Ambrose and Maria Dickmann from issuing future cease-and-desist orders issued against Timothy’s House of Hope.
Compassion Church Inc., which operates Timothy’s House of Hope, and pastors James Swope and Nicholas Cantwell sought a preliminary injunction that would prevent the defendants from infringing on the church's religious right to serve a breakfast and hold prayer gatherings and Bible readings by prohibiting cease-and-desist orders while their lawsuit is pending in U.S. District Court, Davenport.
The city became embroiled in a dispute with Timothy's House of Hope, which had moved to 1602 Washington St. in the 4th Ward, after it issued a cease-and-desist order on April 19 in which it found that its morning meal service required a zoning change to Planned Institutional District–Housing and Supporting Services.
After discussions with the church, the city in June said the ministry did not need a zoning change to operate its ministry in the 4th Ward.
City Attorney Tom Warner said that after speaking with Swope, the intended uses for the Washington Street fit within its current C-2, General Commercial District, zoning.
In the federal lawsuit filed in August, attorney Mike Meloy claims the city, Ambrose and Flynn "expressly discriminated" against the church by issuing the cease-and-desist order to shut down a religious-based breakfast service at the church site.
Dickmann violated the religious rights of the church by telling Cantwell he needed to move from the current church site if he wished to continue serving breakfast, according to the lawsuit.
As part of the lawsuit, Meloy requested a preliminary injunction.
U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie Rose wrote in a 10-page decision filed Monday that Compassion Church and the pastors failed to show that there is a “sufficient threat of irreparable harm if a preliminary injunction is not issued” and that a cease-and-desist order is not currently being enforced and has not been enforced since May 9.
“Plaintiffs have been informed by the City of Davenport that plaintiffs are currently complying with the current zoning classification as a C-2 district,” Rose wrote. “Therefore, the potential threat of irreparable harm, which might occur if a cease-and-desist order is enforced in the future or a new cease-and-desist order is issued, is minimal and unlikely.”