Church Sues City, Officials, For Trying To Shut Down Activities

Jan 29, 2024

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A church in Bryan, Ohio, sued the city and a number of city officials after they tried to stop church members from engaging in their religious activities, CBN reported Tuesday.

An 82-page complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court Northern District of Ohio. It alleges that the city and officials used zoning codes and other ordinances to try and stop the church from helping homeless people within the city. This violated the church’s rights “under the Free Exercise Clause and Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), and the Rights of Conscience clause of the Ohio Constitution,” it noted.

The Church is seeking damages and equitable relief “to prevent the City from violating its fundamental rights to pursue its religious outreach to some of the most vulnerable members of its community” the complaint continued. (LEARN MORE: Ben Carson’s Terrifying Warning For Christians)

Response To The Suit

The target of the city appears to be “Dad’s Place,” a shelter where churches allow individuals to live on a transient basis, apparently in violation of the city’s zoning code. There was also an alleged gas leak at the property while it was housing around 20 people, and is being asked to bring all infrastructure up to code in a timely manner.

“Mayor Schlade spearheaded months of harassment by Bryan, Ohio city officials to repeatedly violate the constitutional and statutory rights of Dad’s Place Church and its pastor, Chris Avell,” Senior Counsel for First Liberty, Jeremy Dys said in a statement noted by CBN. “Instead of prosecuting a pastor in an effort to drive his congregation from her sight, Mayor Schlade should be supporting a church trying to care for the marginalized in her community (and in the dead of winter). The Constitution and the law demand nothing less.”

Avell Facing 18 Criminal Charges

Pastor Avell is facing 18 criminal charges, all related to zoning laws, because the Church was kept open on a 24/7 basis, CBN continued. The city told Avell he is not allowed to help people outside of allotted hours, and even served him with a slew of charges on New Year’s Eve.

“The police were referring people to Dad’s Place and everything was OK until it wasn’t,” First Liberty lawyer Ryan Gardner said. “And what happened is, in November, they got a letter saying that they had to shut their doors and had to put these people with nowhere else to go on the streets.” (LEARN MORE: Biden Ignores Christian Massacres For 3rd Year In A Row)

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