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Phoenix Prohibits a Woman for Handing Out Free Bottles of Water

Written by Gary North on August 13, 2012

A Christian group was handing out free bottles of water at a festival. She was approached by a local bureaucrat with some agency called the Neighborhood Protection. The Neighborhood Protection Inspector informed her that she was breaking the law. She did not have a vendor’s permit.

She contacted the Rutherford Institute, a Christian legal advocacy organization.

Rutherford Institute attorneys have deemed the City’s actions to be problematic on numerous fronts, pointing out that not only is the ban on passing out free water completely unjustified under the City Code, but it also constitutes a violation of Crow-Smith’s First Amendment right to freely exercise her religion, her Fourteenth Amendment due process rights, as well as Arizona’s Free Exercise of Religion Act.

The head of the organization, John W. Whitehead, zeroed in on the implications of this.

“It is a sad day when local government officials prohibit Americans from such charitable acts as giving water to the thirsty in their city. Sadly, this is the reality that more and more Americans are grappling with in the face of a government bureaucracy consumed with churning out laws, statutes, codes and regulations that reinforce its powers and value systems and those of the police state and its corporate allies.

Here are the details.

Dana Crow-Smith, a Christian, was assembled with other Christians at a Phoenix “First Friday” festival in July to publicly express her Christian faith and engage willing passersby in conversations about their religious beliefs. Having read a Bible passage referencing the importance of small acts of kindness such as offering water to the thirsty (Matthew 10:42), Crow-Smith was further moved to offer cold bottles of water to people at the Festival who were braving the desert’s scorching 112-degree heat. However, during the festival, Crow-Smith was approached by a Neighborhood Preservation Inspector who informed the group that they were violating the Phoenix City Code by giving away water without a vendor’s permit.  Although Crow-Smith protested that a vendor’s permit should not be required of citizens who merely sought to offer water as a free gift, the inspector insisted that the City Code prohibits “sidewalk vending” without a license agreement. “Sidewalk vending” is defined in the Code as “peddling, vending, selling, displaying, or offering for sale any item of tangible personal property or other thing of value upon a sidewalk of the City of Phoenix.”

The Rutherford Institute has made a formal request.

In challenging the City’s assertions, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute point out that as these provisions are expressly limited to the sale of goods, they clearly do not apply to Crow-Smith’s act of charitably giving away water. Institute attorneys are demanding that City officials issue a formal, written apology to Crow-Smith, assure her in writing that no City officials will interfere in the future with her distribution of water, and require that all law enforcement officials in the City undergo training on proper enforcement of the City’s Code, including training to ensure that officials will pay proper regard to citizens’ exercise of First Amendment rights.

So far, the city has remained mute. It has until August 17 to respond. If it continues to stonewall, the Rutherford Institute will being legal action against the city.

Why should Phoenix, or any city, require a license for vendors to sell goods? But many of them do. We need a license to do any form of commerce.

Continue Reading on www.rutherford.org

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9 thoughts on “Phoenix Prohibits a Woman for Handing Out Free Bottles of Water

  1. sounds like a big communist goverment in hll whole phoenix,whats wrong with people why didnt everybody there just turn on him and run him out of the fair grounds i would of just atken a water right in front of his face

  2. Retired Marine says:

    People just don't have the stones anymore. Everyone should have gone for the water with that jerk in place. She was NOT selling anything, but liberals don't need to know anything factual, even law, to present their views and enforce ficticious law.
    Makes you kind of sick inside to see what is happening to this once great country.

  3. The officials need to be put on a barren desert for a few hours and then have to pay for any water they can obtain. Poetic justice is what that is called, I believe.

  4. The reason the city cares about this is that it shows the people that the city (state) is not providing for their every need and is diminished in the eyes of the citizens. Whoa to anyone who challenges the almighty government, there will be repercussions.

    This is what happens when idiot bureaucrats mindlessly carry out regulations. These people aren't paid to think, they are cogs in the machine of state.

  5. Alice Ray says:

    Just sue them. There is no excuse that can cover stopping someone from giving out free water in 112 degree heat.

  6. Probably vendors were minting money selling water at $4 a pop, and called their local thug, the "Inspector" to shuthhhdum down.

  7. GenePoole says:

    Who said anything about anybody being a liberal? Soon as somebody does something you dont like, they’re a liberal. It’s just a hate term. Tell us how preventing free distribution of water on a public street corresponds to any kind of “liberal” idea. More likely, the people who were _selling_ water called the cops on the lady because she was interfering with their business. Good, solid, CONSERVATIVE business practice.

  8. Supertad108 says:

    Actually that would be called crony capitalist business practices. BOTH sides are guilty of this. Has NOTHING to do with being conservative or a liberal.

  9. crony capitalism is a misnomer; cronyism is political corruption, capitalism is an economic system of free exchange. This situation is neither: it is mercantilism at best, fascist tyranny at worst.
    And the official who made the claim is incompetent in the exercise of their duties; there is nothing in the City Code that lists persons giving away free anything as a vendor. That is reserved for small businesses operating within the City limits.
    A clear case of official harassment.