Outdoor feeding of homeless subject of hearing

PHILADELPHIA - July 9, 2012

Four church groups sued the city and Mayor Michael Nutter over the ban, saying it violates their religious and free-assembly rights.

A hearing on the request is being held Monday.

The city says it wants to eliminate outdoor meal service because of food safety issues and the need to get the homeless medical and mental health services.

But critics say it's an excuse to get the homeless off the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a key tourist destination with many of the city's museums.

Under the ban violators can be punished by $150 fines. The city has agreed not to enforce the ban until the judge rules.

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