Dad's Place, a church in Bryan, Ohio, operates a shelter that was ordered to shut its doors late last year but Pastor Chris Avell refused to do so.
"There is a severe housing crisis in Bryan, Ohio right now and Dad's Place was trying to meet those needs," says attorney Ryan Gardner of First Liberty Institute, the law firm representing Dad's Place.
After the church pastor refused the order, Gardner says, he has been charged with 18 criminal violations.
First Liberty responded to that with the federal lawsuit seeking to "stop the city's illegal and unlawful harassment in violation of the church's constitutional rights."
Bryan, located in northwestern Ohio, is home to approximately 8,700 citizens.
After AFN reached out to the City of Bryan for comment, a statement from the city said the police department expressed concern about reports of dangerous activity at the shelter, including larceny and sexual assault. There are also fire care violations, too, the statement said.
Gardner calls the press release accusations "outrageous” and accuses the city of “demonizing” people who need help.
"We are talking about a church here,” he stresses. “We are talking about a place that preaches the gospel, that provides food and shelter and love for those who do not have it frankly from any other source."
The legal complaint was filed in the United States District Court Northern District of Ohio.