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Christian Group Loses Bid|to Build Homeless Shelter

(CN) - The government had valid reasons for rejecting an evangelical Christian group's application to establish a homeless shelter on surplus federal land in Missouri, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said the Department of Health and Human Services was justified in rejecting an application by the New Life Evangelistic Center to launch a homeless program in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

The center planned to offer transitional housing to about 125 homeless people a year, 20 of whom would be eligible for job training. It also wanted to provide emergency shelter and a free store to 1,100 more people a year.

The HHS rejected the application on the grounds that it failed to meet its criteria for services offered, need, implementation time and financial ability.

The center successfully appealed the decision in 2009, when the judge found flaws in the government's analysis and ordered it to reconsider the center's application.

On remand, the HHS again rejected the application for largely the same reasons.

New Life argued that the agency's decision-making process was defective, and that its second denial was arbitrary and capricious.

Judge Kollar-Kotelly dismissed each of these arguments, deferring to the agency's concerns that the center might not fully utilize the federal land.

"By any account, HHS examined the relevant data, brought its expertise to bear on the issue, articulated an explanation for its action, and drew a rational connection between the facts found and the choice made, the very essence of reasoned decision-making," Kollar-Kotelly concluded.

She rejected the center's bid to vacate the government's decision.

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