UNITED STATES NEWS

City drops charges against pastor as sides negotiate over Ohio church’s 24/7 ministry

Feb 9, 2024, 9:27 AM

An Ohio city has dropped criminal charges against a pastor over his around-the-clock ministry to the homeless and others in need of help while the two sides work to end the dispute that has landed in federal court.

A municipal prosecutor this week moved to dismiss code violation charges against Dad’s Place church Pastor Chris Avell, weeks after the church filed a federal lawsuit accusing the city of Bryan of trying to repeatedly harass and intimidate it. The city said it wanted to reserve the right to refile charges against Avell if needed.

The lawsuit remains pending, but a lawyer for the city told a federal judge on Monday that a mediation session last week “was productive and the parties continue to pursue resolution.”

Jeremy Dys, a lawyer for Avell, said Friday that Dad’s Place plans to continue to provide temporary shelter to people while it seeks to resolve disputes about the sanctuary’s zoning status and conditions.

“The church will continue to temporarily shelter people at Dad’s Place church, even while we continue to talk to the city about how Dad’s Place is a productive member of the Bryan community,” Dys said. He said a judge granted the motion to dismiss charges against Avell on Thursday.

Bryan Police charged Avell last month with 18 violations, saying the church was violating the city’s zoning ordinance, lacked proper kitchen and laundry facilities and had unsafe exits and inadequate ventilation. The rented church building is beside a separate homeless shelter on Main Street in the city of about 8,600 in northwestern Ohio.

Dad’s Place said in a statement released late Thursday that it will pursue building certifications, zoning permits and safety measures.

“I am thankful to God, the city, and for everyone who has been praying for this day to come,” Avell said in the release. “Bryan is my home. I am eager to continue to serve God, my community, and the people I love.”

The city’s mayor, Carrie Schlade, said in the statement that officials appreciated the effort to negotiate and said work was continuing to resolve their disputes. She is a defendant in the federal lawsuit, along with the city and other Bryan officials.

Police sought charges against Avell for code violations in December. He pleaded not guilty in municipal court Jan. 11.

Church leaders decided almost a year ago to remain open around-the-clock as a temporary, emergency shelter. They’ve said about eight people have stayed there on a typical night, a few more in bad weather.

“I truly believe that everyone who walks through the door of Dad’s Place walks out a better citizen,” Avell told The Associated Press last month.

The church’s “Rest and Refresh in the Lord” overnight ministry has included readings of the Bible piped in under dim lights, with people allowed to come or go. Two volunteers watched over things.

The city said police calls related to church activity began to increase in May for problems such as criminal mischief, trespassing, theft and disturbing the peace. A planning and zoning administrator eventually ordered the church to stop housing people in a zone where first-floor residential use is not allowed.

The church sued to ask the federal court to stop what it considers violations of constitutional rights to free exercise of religion and protections against government hostility to religion. It asked for a restraining order or an injunction against Bryan “enforcing or applying the city’s ordinances to burden the plaintiff’s religious exercise.”

United States News

Associated Press

Boaters find $1 million of cocaine floating off Florida Keys

MIAMI (AP) — Recreational boaters found $1 million worth of cocaine floating in the ocean off the Florida Keys. Samuel Briggs II, the acting chief patrol agent of the U.S. Border Patrol, wrote about the find in a social media post on X. Briggs posted video Monday night showing the wrapped packages of cocaine being […]

14 minutes ago

Associated Press

Police credit New Yorkers for suspect’s arrest in the rape of a 13-year-old girl

NEW YORK (AP) — Residents of a New York City neighborhood are being credited with the arrest of an Ecuadorian man in the alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl, a crime that the city’s police commissioner said “shocked our entire city.” Christian Geovanny Inga-Landi, 25, was awaiting a court appearance after his arrest early Tuesday […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

The Ten Commandments must be displayed in Louisiana classrooms under requirement signed into law

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana has become the first state to require that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom under a bill signed into law by Republican Gov. Jeff Landry on Wednesday. The GOP-drafted legislation mandates that a poster-sized display of the Ten Commandments in “large, easily readable font” be […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Survivors of New Hampshire motorcycle crash that killed 7 urge a judge to keep trucker off the road

Relatives and friends of seven motorcyclists who died in a 2019 crash urged New Hampshire officials Wednesday not to allow the trucker back on the state’s roadways. A jury in 2022 found Volodymyr Zhukovskyy not guilty of multiple manslaughter and negligent homicide counts stemming from the June 21, 2019, collision in Randolph that killed seven […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

New York requiring paid break time for moms who need to pump breast milk at work, under new law

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York moms returning to work after giving birth will now get paid break time when they need to pump breast milk at their jobs, under a new law that took effect Wednesday. Gov. Kathy Hochul said the law requires employers in the state to provide a half hour of paid […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Cooler temps and rain could help corral blazes that forced thousands to flee New Mexico village

ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) — Cooler weather — and the chance of rain — could bring some relief but also the risk of danger this week to firefighters battling blazes in southern New Mexico that killed one person, damaged hundreds of structures and forced thousands to evacuate. Strong wind pushed the larger of two wildfires into […]

16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

City drops charges against pastor as sides negotiate over Ohio church’s 24/7 ministry