Rev. Larry Rice wins battle for homeless worship near Botanical Garden

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) -Rev. Larry Rice has once again set up a tent to provide service and a place for worship for the homeless near both a residential area and the Missouri Botanical Garden.

The last time Larry Rice tried this same thing on this same spot, he was taken away in handcuffs. But, this time, Rice went to court first to ask a federal judge to stop the city from stopping him, and it worked.

Soon after the tent went up a bus full of homeless men showed up, shipped in from Rice's New Life Evangelistic Center Downtown. Rice tried to do the same thing in May 2012, but the city instantly condemned the set up, and Rice was arrested.

This time there were no city inspectors in sight now that a federal judge has agreed with Rice's claim the city's condemnation violated his first amendment right to worship. Neighbors living near Rice's tent have posted what you'd have to call an un-welcome sign. The Botanical Heights Neighborhood is trying to make a comeback.

Rice says providing food and worship at this location is only phase one of his plan. That phase two could involve homeless people spending the night at the location if he loses a lawsuit brought against his downtown shelter by its neighbors.

"If they try to restrict at all what we do at 1411 Locust we have nowhere to go but the new plot of land. That is where we are going to have to come because we are determined to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ and we see the provision of shelter as a function of worship." said Larry Rice."This neighborhood has come up a lot since I've been here and I feel a lot safer that when I first moved in but to know that that's kinda creepy."

Rice`s preliminary injunction is just that, a first step. Lawyers for both sides are meeting with the judge to choose a date for the next hearing when the city will try to get the court to see things its way, clearing the way for the city to once again clear Rice off the land.

Statement of St. Louis Operations Director Eddie Roth on the activities of Rev. Larry Rice at the lot situated at Lafayette and Vandeventor Avenues:

Rev. Rice has a right to lead religious worship. The City of St. Louis never has contested that.

But he has no right to establish an encampment or otherwise use the property as an overnight or living place for others.

Should he do so, we will take action – including by seeking immediate relief before the United States District Court.

In the meantime, I will be stopping by the property. Police and fire officials, as always, will keep an eye on fire protection and everyone's safety.

Eddie Roth
Director of Operations

Office of the Mayor