Press Releases

Breaking: Bryan, Ohio Resumes Harassment of Dad’s Place Church for Keeping Doors Open to Serve Homeless, Threatens New Charges

April 25, 2024

News Release
For Immediate Release: 4.25.24
Contact: Peyton Luke Drew,
Direct: 972-941-4453

Breaking: Bryan, Ohio Resumes Harassment of Dad’s Place Church for Keeping Doors Open to Serve Homeless, Threatens New Charges
Church renews request for hearing on temporary restraining order after city once again threatens pastor with criminal charges.

Toledo, OH—Late today, First Liberty Institute and the law firms Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP and Spengler Nathanson PLL filed a motion to show cause against Bryan, Ohio after city officials again threatened Dad’s Place Pastor Chris Avell with criminal charges for keeping his church open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, despite an agreement requiring the city to notify the court if it takes any action against the church.

You can read the motion, here.

“Mayor Schlade and city officials demonstrated once again that they have no respect for the First Amendment or for the court,” said Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel for First Liberty.  “The city’s blatant hostility toward Dad’s Place and the court is repugnant.”

Ryan Gardner of First Liberty added, “We are asking the court to send a clear message to city officials in Bryan to stop its illegal harassment of Pastor Chris and Dad’s Place.”

Earlier this week, police and fire officials showed up at Dad’s Place at 5:30 am for an unannounced inspection, alleged fire code violations, and threatened fines of $1,000 per day if the Church does not immediately halt its 24-hour ministry beginning on May 1, 2024.  This was the second time officials arrived for an inspection at 5:30 am.

After the city dropped criminal charges filed against Pastor Avell earlier this year, the church engaged in good faith settlement discussions with city officials at a mediation with Magistrate Judge Clay on February 1, 2024.  Hoping to resolve this case and in reliance on the city’s representations to the Court that they would take no further enforcement actions against the church, the church agreed to cancel the preliminary injunction hearing originally scheduled before this Court on March 4.  Since that time, the church has addressed many of the alleged safety concerns raised by the city.

The city’s continued harassment of Dad’s Place regarding people staying overnight at the church pressured the church to move a congregant who suffered from seizers to an apartment.  The congregant stated he preferred staying at the Church and felt safer staying at the Church because he did not want to be alone at night given his medical condition.  However, fearing retribution by the city, the Church asked the congregant to set aside his reservations and relocate to the apartment.  Tragically, on April 12, 2024, the congregant suffered another seizure episode while staying alone at the apartment and passed away.

In March 2023, Dad’s Place began operating its ministry 24 hours a day to serve the most vulnerable in its community.  For months, Dad’s place did so without incident.  However, in November 2023 as winter began in Northern Ohio, Bryan city officials issued an ultimatum to the church: cease operating 24 hours a day or face legal penalties.  After Dad’s Place refused to force those within its care out onto the streets, city officials began engaging in a campaign to harass, intimidate, and shut down Dad’s Place, including filing criminal charges against Pastor Avell.


About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Peyton Luke Drew at or by calling 972-941-4453.

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