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


An Ohio city has dropped criminal charges against a pastor over his round-the-clock service to the homeless and others in need of help, while both sides work to end a dispute that reached federal court. Is.

A municipal prosecutor this week filed a motion to dismiss code violation charges. Pastor Chris Ewell of Dad’s Place ChurchJust weeks after the church filed a federal lawsuit accusing the city of Bryan of repeatedly harassing and intimidating her. The city said it intends to reserve the right to re-file charges against Ewell if necessary.

The lawsuit is still pending, but an attorney for the city told a federal judge on Monday that a mediation session last week “was productive and the parties are moving toward resolution.”

Ewell’s attorney, Jeremy Diss, said Friday that Dad’s Place plans to continue providing temporary shelter to people while he seeks to resolve disputes about the sanctuary’s zoning status and terms.

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

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Bryan police last month charged Ewell with 18 violations, saying the church was violating the city’s zoning ordinance, lacked proper kitchen and laundry facilities and had unsafe vents and inadequate ventilation. The rented church building is next to a separate homeless shelter on Main Street in the northwest town of about 8,600 ohio,

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

“I am grateful to God, the city and all those who have been praying for this day to come,” Ewell said in the release. “Bryan is my home. I look forward to continuing to serve God, my community and my people.” people I love.”

City Mayor Cary Schlade said in the statement that officials appreciated the negotiation efforts and said work was continuing to resolve their disputes. He is a defendant in the federal lawsuit along with the city and other Bryan officials.

Police sought charges against Ewell for code violations in December. He pleaded innocent in municipal court on January 11.

Church leaders decided about a year ago to remain open around the clock as a temporary, emergency shelter. He said that on a normal night about eight people stayed there, with a few more staying in bad weather.

“I truly believe that anyone who walks through the doors of Dad’s Place becomes a better citizen,” Ewell told The Associated Press last month.

The church’s “Rest in the Lord and Be Refreshed” overnight ministry includes Bible readings through pipes under dim lights, with people allowed to come and go. Two volunteers kept an eye on things.

Police calls related to church activity began to increase in May for problems such as criminal mischief, trespassing, theft and disturbing the peace, the city said. A planning and zoning administrator ultimately ordered the church to stop housing people in an area where residential use of the first floor is not permitted.

The church sued the federal court for what it considers a violation of its constitutional rights to the free exercise of religion and protection against government hostility toward religion. It sought an injunction or injunction against Bryan “from promulgating or enforcing city ordinances that would burden plaintiff’s religious exercise.”

Copyright 2024 The associated Press, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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