A church in Cleveland faces the possibility of losing its religious designation because it is sheltering homeless people this winter.
Local news station WOIO reports that the Denison United Church of Christ recently received a notice from the city of Cleveland's Public Safety Department advising it that it would have to drop its religious designation if it wanted to continue its partnership with a local nonprofit group called the Metanoia Project that aims at helping homeless people find warm places to sleep during cold winter months.
The notice also asked the church to update its fire safety equipment and protocols, which struck Pastor Nozomi Ikuta as far more reasonable than the request that the church drop its status as a religious institution.
"You’re asking to update our fire extinguishers, that’s understandable," she explained to WOIO. "But you’re asking us to change the use of our building. We’re a church, we have services here."
City representatives have not immediately responded to WOIO's requests for comment, also Ikuta expressed hope that this was all a big bureaucratic misunderstanding and that the church would be allowed to shelter homeless people while retaining its religious designation.