by Jorge Gomez • 5 min read
We went to court Thursday to defend a pastor who is opening his church to serve and minister to anyone who needs it.
Pastor Chris Avell is facing criminal charges. The city of Bryan, Ohio says the Pastor is breaking the law because he opened Dad’s Place Church 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to serve his community, including the homeless looking for a place to come in out of the cold. He’s been hit with 18+ violations of the zoning code.
For a quick recap about this breaking case, read this article.
Attorneys Jeremy Dys and Ryan Gardner were at the arraignment with Pastor Chris on Thursday. Here’s their quick update on how it went:
“This week, the City of Bryan, OH arraigned Pastor Chris on criminal charges for operating a church 24/7. He pled ‘NOT GUILTY’ as any pastor should who is simply doing what churches throughout history have done: care for those who walk through their doors no matter the time of day. We hope Mayor Schlade will back off of these charges and talk with us about how Pastor Chris and Dad’s Place can continue to contribute to the wonderful community of Bryan.”
The city’s actions against Pastor Chris and his church are plain wrong. Accusing him of being a criminal for helping people just doesn’t add up. It’s unconscionable and betrays what religious liberty in our country is all about. Houses of worship in America have a constitutionally protected right to serve the people around them without government threatening or accusing them of criminal behavior.
Labor of Love
What Pastor Chris is doing is NOT criminal. It’s Christian. He has every right to keep his church doors open for as long as he wants.
Keeping Dad’s Place open is a labor of love. Pastor Chris says that serving the most vulnerable is God’s calling for his life, which goes back more than 15 years.
Pastor Chris once considered himself an atheist. In 2009, God changed his mind, his heart and his path. Since then, his passion has been sharing his Christian faith with others. He believes ministering to people in need is what he is called to do.
He says God put the idea in his heart for a 24-hour church. That was one of the aspirations he had when opening Dad’s Place. It’s a goal he and his congregation had been striving for from the beginning.
And when people in his community needed help, God’s calling couldn’t have been any clearer. Pastor Chris says:
“It wasn’t time to be open 24/7 in the beginning, although we were open every day. We always had multiple Bible studies every day, and we ended up starting to open the church up later and later. Many times, we had gotten calls from the police department for someone who needed a place to cool off or who needed help in some way. I figured this was God’s way of telling me now was the time.”
Officials in our cities and states should encourage and champion the religious organizations who do this very important work. Simply put, the government should not be dragging religious leaders into court.