The United States is queuing up to see if homeless people can be punished for sleeping on public property. As it turns out, private property doesn’t look too secure either. Religious freedom may be strong enough to justify discriminating against gay folks trying to buy wedding cakes or forcing kids to pray at the 50 yard line, but it appears to crumble in the face of zoning laws.
A pastor in Bryan, Ohio, is facing criminal charges after being accused of allowing homeless people to take overnight refuge in his church, which the city says has led to serious safety and zoning violations.
Chris Avell pleaded not guilty to 18 zoning law violation charges last week in Bryan over his refusal to turn overnight guests away from his church, Dad’s Place, as a homeless shelter next door struggles with overcrowding, his attorney said.
Over his refusal to turn away? The church had a legal obligation to refuse all who are weary and burdened, and to give them rest (Matthew: 11:28)? If Christian private schools in Maine can still get federal funding despite the law generally stating otherwise, why can’t a church get a pass on zoning laws to help the homeless? And if the prosecution really wants to prosecute Avell for his religious beliefs, they should probably stop the police from making it so easy for him to be a “lifeline”:
Overnight guests sometimes include people who were turned away from the shelter next door, or people who have been dropped off by police, [Jeremy] Dys said.
“They’re complaining about people being there and they’re also bringing people to seek shelter there,” he said of the city’s law enforcement. “It’s really bizarre.”
The city had this to say:
“A reasonable amount of time was given for both the tenant and property owner to fix the issues. Due to the safety of all involved the city moved forward with filing charges”
The safety of all involved, huh. I doubt sleeping in a church is more of a health risk than sleeping outside in the freezing cold. If there ever was a time for prosecutorial discretion, this was it.
Pastor Facing Criminal Charges After Giving Homeless People Shelter In Ohio Church [Huff Post]
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at [email protected] and by tweet at @WritesForRent.