The U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Iowa has entered a judgement against the city of Davenport for the illegal shutdown of Timothy's House of Hope over its morning meal service.
Davenport had entered an offer to confess judgement in which it will pay $15,000 in favor of Compassion Church, of which Timothy's House of Hope is a ministry, and pastors Nick Cantwell and James Swope.
The offer to confess judgement is separate from attorney fees and costs, which will be determined next by the court.
The federal suit had alleged violations of religious federal constitutional rights, state constitutional rights and federal religious land use and institutionalized persons acts after the church, 1602 Washington St., was forced to close its doors for 27 days.
The judgement was also entered against Aldermen Ray Ambrose, 4th Ward, and Maria Dickmann, 2nd Ward, and Senior Planning Manager Matt Flynn in both individual and official capacities.
“Today’s entry of judgment by the federal court against Davenport, Ambrose, Dickmann and Flynn, jointly and severally, originated from a violation of Compassion Church’s religious liberty rights by the issuance of a cease and desist order prohibiting the Church from serving food," attorney Mike Meloy said. "Compassion Church will continue to serve breakfast to the poor, needy and homeless through its religious ministry, Timothy’s House of Hope, at 1602 Washington Street.”
A dispute between Timothy's House of Hope and the city began on April 19 after a cease-and-desist order was issued to the ministry over its morning meal service.
Prior to moving to 1602 Washington St., the ministry had operated at 1407 W. 4th St., where it offered the same services at the property which was zoned C-2, General Commercial District.
The city initially said that in order to provide those services at the new location, it would require a zoning change from C-2 to Planned Institutional District-Housing and Supportive Services.
This need to rezone resulted in mass confusion on the part of the church, but the city explained that in 2012, it amended its zoning ordinance and grandfathered in the property at 1407 W. 4th St.
This resulted in a 27-day closure of the church. But after consultation with its pastors, City Attorney Tom Warner reversed course and said the services being offered fit within the current C-2 zoning.
In the federal complaint filed by attorney Mike Meloy, he claimed the city, Ambrose and Flynn had discriminated against the church in issuing the cease-and-desist order. He noted a number of other churches which offered the same types of services yet were not subject to the same requirements.
Damages for defamation were also sought against Ambrose for comments made against Cantwell and Swope.
Meloy also stated the Dickmann had violated the religious rights of the church by telling Cantwell that it would need to move to another site if it wished to continue its services.
The complaint alleged Dickmann told Cantwell, “I’m going to see that they (Davenport) put it (Cease and Desist Order) back on you,” if it did not move its services to Cedar Memorial Christian Church, 306 Cedar St.
The same location, which was zoned C-2, began a breakfast service in June.
The city of Davenport has not responded to a request for comment.