A Louisiana church was ordered to stop giving away free water along Mardi Gras parade routes because they did not have the proper permits.
“We were given a cease and desist order,” said Matt Tipton, pastor of Hope Church in Metairie, LA. “We had no idea we were breaking the law.”
Tipton said volunteers from his church were handing out free coffee and free bottles of water at two locations along a Mardi Gras parade route when they were stopped by Jefferson Parish officials. The church volunteers were cited for failing to secure an occupational license and for failure to register for a sales tax.
“It kind of threw me for a loop because they weren’t in uniform,” he said. “But once they pulled the ticket out, I was conviniced.”
“We apologized,” Tipton said. “We didn’t know the rules.”
The church had purchased about five thousand bottles of water labeled with the church’s name and website address. They gave the remaining bottles to a local drug rehab center.
A spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office confirmed to Fox News that the church had violated the law.
The spokesman said the church was initially given a verbal warning – and then a written warning. He said it was not a citation – even though the warning clearly stated it was a “vendor warning citation.”
The sheriff’s department said there was “no validity to their complaint whatever their complaint may be.”
Ken Klukowski, a senior legal fellow at the Family Research Council, said the citation was absurd.
“This is a perfect example of why so many people have a problem with big government,” Klukowski said. “The idea that a church needs a permit to hand out water to thirsty people is unfortunate.”
He said it’s hard to believe that the government would get in the way of citizens helping each other out – “especially a church which was just doing its duty to be good Samaritans and help those in need.”
Pastor Tipton said he sent an email to city leaders explaining that they were just trying to show their love to the city “and to serve the city.”
He offered to provide volunteers to clean up trash or even clean portable toilets. However, city leaders did not initially respond and Tipton said he was given the runaround – told to go through three different department heads.
Klukowski said the incident is outrageous.
“The idea that you need an additional level of bureaucracy stopping a church from showing kindness to members of the community is a perfect example of a waste of taxpayer money and resources,” he said.