While the summer heat wave continues to bear down on most of the country, Phoenix, Arizona is feeling a different kind of heat since telling a woman she could not hand out free bottles of water on the city streets.

The incident occurred last month during the First Friday festival in downtown Phoenix, when, according to Dana Crow-Smith, she was approached by an employee of the city of Phoenix and told that she was violating city code by handing out free water without a permit.

Crow-Smith, along with others from her congregation, was passing out free bottles of water to people in the in the 112 degree heat as a means for expressing their Christian faith and engaging passers-by to discuss religion if they were so inclined.

However, a Neighborhood Preservation Inspector obviously did not appreciate their generosity, threatening to give the group a citation if they did not stop.

“It was really hot and yeah we wanted to show God’s love and a small act of kindness is a great way to do that without shoving it down someone’s throat,” said Crow-Smith.

A non-profit civil liberties organization called the Rutherford Institute has come to the defense of Crow-Smith, calling what happened “a violation of Crow-Smith’s First Amendment right to freely exercise her religion, her 14th Amendment due process rights, as well as Arizona’s Free Exercise of Religion Act.”

“It is a sad day when local government officials prohibit Americans from such charitable acts as giving water to the thirsty in their city,” said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute.

Dana Crow-Smith seeks a formal, written apology and assurance that no other city officials will interfere with her distribution of water, as well as, insisting that city workers go through training to learn the proper enforcement of the city’s codes.

If the city fails to comply, a lawsuit could be the next resort.

In the end, Crow-Smith just wants to be able to hand out water, and hopes that pursuing a lawsuit will not be necessary.

[ABC News]


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