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National Media Coverage of GP Homeless Lawsuit Uniformly Biased

By Brian Bouteller

It’s kind of strange to have spoken with so much of the national media and then watch what has been reported so far, as they repeat a clear, seemingly unified and demonstrably biased framing.

The reporting suggests that the City of Grants Pass is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to allow us to punish homeless people in a unique and novel way for simply sleeping in city parks and on city-owned public property. Nothing could be further from the truth.

What the City of Grants Pass is asking is that the Supreme Court consider overturning an injunction filed against the city by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals back in 2019, which subsequently prevents the city (along with any other city under the 9th Circuit’s jurisdiction) from being able to enforce its rules for using public park space, particularly if the individual breaking said rules happens to be homeless. This is why all nine western states, particularly California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho, have seen a marked increase in people camping in their public parks and other public spaces.

What Grants Pass is asking for is to regain their ability to maintain and enforce the same rules that it had prior to the injunction and that all the rest of the nation shares. If the high court does not overturn the injunction, then the rest of the nation will be made to comply with the 9th Circuit’s decision.

The question at stake has to do with what constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment.” Is it cruel or unusual to penalize homeless individuals for violating a park curfew, trespassing on park property, vandalizing its property, bringing and using illicit substances on park property, engaging in prostitution/human trafficking, etc., given that the person is homeless? In other words, does a person’s lack of desire or ability to maintain a permanent residency exempt them from a moral and social obligation to the rule of law?

The Oregon Law Center successfully framed the infraction in question to be “sleeping,” but that isn’t at all what our communities are struggling with. I’ve never once heard a complaint before the city council from parents that they no longer feel safe to have their children play in the parks because they may accidently come across a used pillow or blanket. I have heard countless hours of testimony from them about their children coming across human feces, used drug needles, drugs, broken booze bottles, etc. This is what is happening in our communities as a result of the injunction on the West Coast, and it is our prayer that the Supreme Court will overturn this bad ruling.

When Jesus said what the second-greatest commandment was, He quoted from Leviticus 19:18, “… you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Just three verses earlier in the same chapter we read, “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor” (emphasis mine).

What is both cruel and unusual is to punish law-abiding citizens by forcing them to underwrite the lawless behavior of another simply because the criminal is poor. Entire retail chains have closed their doors in our western cities because we refuse to enforce “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another” (Leviticus 19:11).

All of this is summarized in what it means to love our neighbors. When we return to the authority of God’s Word in the church, specially that dreaded “left side” of our Bibles, we will see it reverenced in our communities and further downstream into the rest of our culture.

Brian Bouteller is the Executive Director of the Grants Pass Gospel Rescue Mission. To support the work of the Mission, contributions can be mailed to the Gospel Rescue Mission, PO Box 190, Grants Pass, OR 97528. Online contributions can be made at