“We are an organization that wants to have integrity and not be in violation of any laws,” Howell said.
But he fears that the federal agency may be losing sight of the bigger picture.
“We are trying to help homeless folks get out of homelessness and become productive members of society,” he said. “Worrying about the Fair Housing Act at a homeless shelter loses sight of the big picture.”
The City Gospel Mission has bipartisan support in their battle against HUD. Both of Ohio’s U.S. senators sent a joint letter to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan on March 28 asking for a speedy resolution.
“Faith-based organizations across Ohio like Cincinnati’s City Gospel Mission play a crucial role in helping struggling families get back on their feet,” Senator Portman told me during an interview at Fox News. “I’m concerned by any regulations or interpretation of regulations that push Ohioans back onto the streets, instead of giving them the help they need.”
Portman told me he’s hoping HUD can give the Christian ministry a bit of leeway. But so far, HUD hasn’t responded to the senators’ letter either.
“It’s a fact that HUD has been so unwilling to show any kind of flexibility,” he said. “It’s a typical bureaucratic response in my view.”
Portman agreed with my observation that it sounds like the Obama administration is taking another hard line position against religious liberty.
“They are overlooking the mission of this group and looking too much at the religious aspects,” he said. “They just need to show a little more flexibility which is what federal bureaucracies are not good at.”
Howell said when push comes to shove, they will not violate their religious beliefs – even if it means losing their new home.
“If we can’t go to this new site, we can’t go to this new site,” he said. “There’s no question from our point of view that we will continue to operate our program in a way that is consistent with what we believe the Bible says – and will live within the law.”
The facts are pretty clear in this case. The City Gospel Mission needs to move to a larger facility so it can house more homeless men. And yet the Obama administration is trying to use the Fair Housing Act to put those men back on the streets. That doesn’t seem very fair to me.