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Charges Dropped Against Ohio Pastor Sheltering the Homeless

Pastor Chris Avell of Dad’s Place Church agreed to seek the needed certifications.

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Criminal charges have been dropped against a pastor in Bryan, Ohio, who used his church building to shelter homeless people during cold winter weather.

Chris Avell preaching Jan. 21, 2024 / Video screenshot

Dad’s Place Pastor Chris Avell was criminally charged with 18 counts for zoning violations on New Year’s Eve because he opened the first floor of the church in a business district to allow homeless people to escape the cold.

The city has agreed to drop the criminal charges while Dad’s Place ceases residential operations and seeks proper building certifications and zoning permits for the operations it plans to pursue, according to First Liberty, a public interest law firm that defends religious liberty.

Dad’s Place will also install any necessary safety measures associated with those permits. The parties will continue to negotiate a final resolution to the matter, First Liberty and the city indicated.

“The city of Bryan appreciates the willingness of Dad’s Place to work with the city to resolve the parties’ differences amicably and to ensure that the services provided by Dad’s Place are delivered in a safe manner,” Bryan’s Mayor Carrie Schlade said of the agreement.

Avell expressed his gratitude for the many who have been praying for him. “Bryan is my home. I am eager to continue to serve God, my community, and the people I love,” he said.

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On Jan. 22, Avell filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Bryan, seeking a temporary restraining order to keep the city from shutting down the Dad’s Place 24-7 shelter.

The lawsuit claimed that the city’s actions violated the church’s religious freedom and equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution.

It also made claims under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Rights of Conscience clause of the Ohio Constitution.

According to the press statement, attorneys for Dad’s Place and officials with the City of Bryan met to mediate their differences in federal court on Feb. 1, 2024, but the pending lawsuit has not yet been settled.

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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a freelance writer who holds a Juris Doctorate from Baylor University. She has home schooled her three children and is happily married to her husband of 25 years.