Pastor Melvin Navarro says the City of Lorain, Ohio, where he runs his Healing Wings International Ministries, denied his church a permit because it would attract the homeless, but the mayor disputes the claim.
“I believe it’s almost unconstitutional to tell a church ‘you cannot have church in your own building,’” Navarro told 19 News.
The pastor who runs the ministry with his wife Angelina, told the news outlet that the city’s mayor, Joseph Kozuira, told him that his application to hold formal worship services in his building was denied because city officials believe organizations such as churches and charities attract homeless people to the city.
“Homelessness is a big problem in the city,” Navarro said. “They don’t want any homeless, and therefore they don’t want anymore churches or charitable organizations.”
A part of Navarro’s ministry is Joseph’s Corner Outreach, which, according to the organization’s description on Facebook, is focused on meeting community needs by providing a place for “morale, welfare and recreation for the community of Lorain.”
In a fundraiser for the property last month the veteran explained that he was trying to renovate his property in order to house the homeless in the winter.
“We are continually raising funds to finish working on Joseph’s Corner Community Outreach and Healing Wings Ministry Center before the winter comes. Funds have come in, but very slowly. We would love to speed up the process so that we can pass inspection for Joseph’s Corner and have a place set up to keep the homeless warm this winter!” he and his wife noted.
Navarro, who along with his wife are both veterans, said they relocated their ministry to their current location about a year ago. The city’s fire chief has approved an operations permit. At his old location, the pastor said they were approved to operate as a church but did not get an operations permit to provide other services.
He said because the current location of his ministry previously served as a church, he didn’t imagine he would have any problems getting approved to hold formal worship services.
“I was told you shouldn’t have a problem because this was a church before,” he explained. “So I went ahead and applied, confident that we would be approved to be a church, and I was denied.”
Mayor Koziura told The Christian Post in a Monday interview, however, that the city’s zoning board turned down Pastor Navarro’s application because the building was in poor condition.
“The building is in very bad shape and I think that’s why the zoning board did that because the building is not a real good building. This thing has been closed probably 30 years,” he said. “… The city was looking at condemning [it]. So when he went to the board the board voted it down. I had nothing to do with that.”
Koziura said when Navarro approached him about the situation he suggested that he could appeal the decision of the zoning board.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leonardo Blair