Religious groups filed a federal lawsuit against the Philadelphia's ban on feeding the homeless in the city's public parks, charging it violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the activist law firm of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, LLP filed the suit on the behalf of Chosen 300 Ministries, the Welcome Church, the King's Jubilee, and Philly Restart, which have operated food-sharing programs for the homeless in the parks along Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and other groups.

The lawsuit argues the ban, which went into effect Friday, was made to protect the city's tourist image, especially near the news opened Barnes Foundation museum, and not to protect the health of the homeless, as officials have maintained.

It alleges that the ban violates both the free exercise of religion clause and the free speech clause of the First Amendment as well as Pennsylvania's Religious Freedom Protection Act, the ACLU said in a statement.