Legal Fight for Dad’s Place Church in Bryan, Ohio is Just Beginning

January 26, 2024
Dad's Place Bryan Ohio | First Liberty Institute

by Jorge Gomez • 5 min read

We filed a federal lawsuit this week on behalf of Dad’s Place Church in Bryan, Ohio.

City officials are using law enforcement to force our client Pastor Chris Avell to end his ministry and shut down Dad’s Place Church. The Pastor faces nearly two dozen criminal charges. Why? For keeping his church open 24/7 to serve the community, including anyone looking for a place to come in out of the cold.

Some quick legal updates about what’s going on right now with this case:

  • We went before a judge on Tuesday for an emergency hearing. Good news to report out of that proceeding: for now, the city cannot take any enforcement action against Pastor Chris and the church without going to the court first to ask for permission.
  • We have another court date set for March, when the judge will hear our motion for an injunction. That injunction is key because it would stop the city from harassing our client altogether.

The city’s antagonism is beyond the pale. Officials have refused multiple times to meet with Pastor Chris and us to resolve the issue. They also released a statement this past Friday with some very disparaging remarks about the church. They painted Pastor Chris as a criminal and said that “inappropriate activity” was happening at the church.

But the only ones engaging in “inappropriate activity” here are the city officials determined to harass and intimidate a church for serving its community. They need to do what’s right, dismiss the criminal charges and protect the church’s ability to fulfill its divinely-inspired mission.

From the very beginning of this case, we’ve made clear that Pastor Chris is fully within his rights to keep the church open as long as he wants. He’s simply doing what churches throughout history have done: care for those who walk through their doors. As our lawsuit explains, the city is trampling on the Constitution and violating multiple federal and state laws that protect houses of worship.

Backlash Against a Good Samaritan?

We want you to hear firsthand from Pastor Chris. The work of Dad’s Place Church is incredible. The congregation is meeting the needs of so many people. You’ll get to hear from them, too. Watch below:

Have we really reached a point in America where it’s considered a crime for the church to be…well…the church? Many of our public leaders seem to forget why religious freedom is so important. The whole point of religious liberty and the First Amendment is to protect houses of worship from government excess. And when houses of worship are free to live out their faith, they’re also free to be a force for good. They can positively impact everyone.

As Pastor Chris says, singing or praising on Sunday mornings is one part of worship. But it goes beyond that. Being the church means serving others. It’s what Scripture teaches. It’s the calling of Dad’s Place Church and countless congregations in our country: to care for widows and orphans, feed the hungry, tend to the sick and be a refuge for those who have no home.

It’s a bold and demanding calling. It’s an around-the-clock calling. And it’s why Pastor Chris made a priority of keeping his church doors open all day and all night.

Pastor Chris still needs your support. This legal battle is just beginning. Can this pastor and his church count on you?

Please give to First Liberty today. Your gift makes a HUGE difference. You’re the one who helps us win and deliver freedom for everyday Americans like Pastor Chris.

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