Compassion Collides with City Laws in the Case of Dad’s Place

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Our Guest

Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Bruce lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren.

His website “The Life And Times Of Bruce Gerencser” is riveting for his tales of being an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist pastor, cautionary as he explains in detail how interpretations of the Bible were used to support and expand a patriarchal society, and hopeful as Bruce documents his journey to freethought.

Bryan church files federal lawsuit against city in homeless shelter dispute (alternate PDF file)

Bryan church charged with zoning violations for housing homeless

An Ohio pastor was punished for opening his church to the homeless. He deserves it.

*Update – 02/10/2024* – The criminal charges were dropped but the Federal lawsuit is still active (pdf alternative)

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Show Transcript

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00:00 – Doug (Host)
Is it a violation of religious freedom if a city tries to enforce zoning laws against a church that opened its doors as a homeless shelter? Former evangelical pastor Bruce Guernser is here to discuss that issue and his friend who is at the center of a current dispute, pastor Chris Avell, in Bryan, ohio. I’m Doug Berger and this is Secular Left. Well, our guest today is Bruce Guernser. He is a former evangelical minister, lives up in Northwest Ohio, up in the same area as Pastor Chris Avell, who has recently filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Bryan over an illegal or what the city is classifying as an illegal homeless shelter that he was running out of his church. I’ve asked Bruce on today to talk about it because he knows the pastor, they are friends and he also has a certain point of view about it and I kind of want to have a discussion about it.

So just to kind of give a brief overview about the situation is that Pastor Avell Avell opened a church called Dad’s Church in downtown Bryan and that is in Williams County, right, yes, williams County, so the county seat of Williams County, in the northwest corner of the state, and he opened his church and then at one point, according to the news reports, in March of 2023, he decided to open his doors to homeless people 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Unfortunately, the city of Bryan was not happy about it, saying that he was violating zoning regulations, health and safety issues regarding, like, a laundry and a cooking hood and things like that. They had also been getting complaints through the police department, which usually is probably why they started harping on the zoning and eventually he was given criminal charges for violating the zoning. Because he refuses to shut down. There is a legal Christian nationalist legal team that is representing him, called First Liberty. For people that are in the know, first Liberty is the one that worked the case about the coach who had the prayer on the 50 yard line. He won his case and they also represented the postal worker who wanted to take off on Sundays even if they couldn’t cover his shift, and he kind of won that court case, williams.

03:09 – WTVG Report (Other)
County on a story we first brought you back in December. Law firms and a non-profit representing dad’s place and Pastor Chris Avell have filed a federal lawsuit and temporary restraining order against the city of Bryan. They alleged city officials are trying to shut down the church’s religious activities. The city has previously leveled nearly two dozen charges against Avell, arguing the church has committed several zoning violations for housing homeless in a facility that’s not permitted to do so. Avell pleaded not guilty to those charges.

03:38 – Doug (Host)
So that’s the brief overview of the situation and in my well, let me go with Bruce here. You said that your friends, how did you meet the pastor and in what’s your relationship like?

03:55 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
First of all, thanks for having me. And I’ve known Chris, oh goodness, 12, 15 years probably, I’d say at this point and my first interaction with Chris was when he was the pastor of a church of God a couple miles from my house here out in the country and Chris wanted to befriend me, interact with me, and I’ve always been leery of evangelical preachers who come in the name of love and friendship and just want to be my buddy and take me to lunch and whatnot. It’s hard not to see the ulterior motives behind what they’re trying to do. But I found Chris to be a friend, genuine about his beliefs. You know when this first issue came up, you know I wrote him and said look, I have no use for your theology whatsoever, and he knows that. And we’ve gone back and forth numerous times and I’ve even mocked him on my blog a time or two. You know some of the things they’ve done over the years and but I appreciate the work that he’s doing with what I call the least of these, those that are without, the homeless and whatnot. So I try to distinguish between the work that he’s doing with homeless people and his beliefs.

And certainly I’m no fan of First Liberty Institute at all.

I despise much of what they do, though they can at times land on the right side of the law too when it comes to First Amendment issues, and so you have to try to separate these various issues, and that’s not easy to do.

And at the same token, from the dad’s place and Chris’s side, we’re hearing cries of persecution and someone’s got an agenda that they’re trying to prosecute against the church and whatnot, and I don’t think that’s the case either. I know some of the people that are Brian city leaders and good people. As far as I know, all of them are Christians, every last one of them, because everybody’s a Christian around here, and I just think that what we have is this you know two competing ideas here. You know we have the law, and then we have this view of how best to deal with a social problem and a political problem, and so there’s this conflict, and so then we have this budding of heads that goes on because people dig their feet in, and you know, in the old gospel song, as I shall not be moved, and that sometimes is what happens here, and so now it’s gonna go to court to be settled.

07:20 – Doug (Host)
Yeah, and I wanna say from the outset too, that the homelessness problem is endemic. It exists everywhere, including Brian. Brian, I think, is only about 20, 30,000 people at most.

07:36 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
No, 9,000. Oh, it’s 9,000?. Yeah, the county’s about 37,000, yes.

07:43 – Doug (Host)
Yeah, and so the homeless problem exists in the rural communities, just like they do in the big cities. Yes, there’s a lack of affordable housing, there’s a lack of a will, political will, to take care of it, because they could take care of it, they really could tomorrow. Now, on the flip side, there’s also some people who refuse to live in a home. Sure, sure you wanna say, I’ve met one or two of them at a time, and those people should be helped as well. So from the outset, I just wanna say that homelessness is a problem. I know, when I expressed my views on this issue earlier this week, somebody complained well, you don’t care about homeless people. It’s like, no, I do care about homeless people. You know they should be able to find shelter and services and help without being in danger of dying in a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning or something like that. And that’s what a lot of these zoning violations were for the dad’s place church, yeah, and let’s be clear the city of Bryan has never done squat about the homeless problem.

08:52 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
The homeless shelter is a private institution that’s run by. It was started by Grace Community Church, which used to be a downtown church, which I guarantee you that when they were a downtown church they violated countless, and so he was while they were in that downtown building. And so Grace Community a pastor by Mike Kelly, I believe. They’re a Mennonite church now and they were a charismatic evangelical church and they started this homeless shelter, and so people don’t get confused thinking that they’re in Toledo, like at the Cherry Street Rescue Mission or someplace like that. They have four beds for single men and then they have two more rooms for families or for married couples, and so there’s not a lot of beds to start with, and so it’s primarily been this private religious group. And, believe me, the homeless shelter in Bryan is devoutly. The people that run it are devoutly religious. They’re evangelical people who live there, required to attend church and followed Bible principles and rules, and which is not uncommon when it comes to religious-oriented homeless shelters and things like that. And so what I see Dad’s place doing is trying to take care of the overflow from that and that there are more people than the homeless shelter can handle, and so the church took in the overflow from that, even at the city, police bringing people there and the local hospital bringing people there and dropping them off so they could find someplace to sleep and get a meal.

So let’s talk about the zoning, because that seems to be the issue, and the city of Bryan is grossly overplaying the so-called safety violations.

In fact, I made a statement today that said, if we wanna follow strictly follow the zoning, health codes and building codes and all of those things in Bryan, I can take them to dozens of businesses and churches that cannot pass inspections on those. I mean within a block of this church. And so when I look at the violations, okay, if they need a carbon monoxide detectors, fire detectors, no brainer, gotta do that, gotta do that, no question about that. But to a small church that’s a storefront church, the fact that they have a stove that they cook on and it doesn’t have a vent over the top of it, come on, you know it’s not going to hurt anybody. You know, in the same way, that they had a dryer in there and you know, and the gas dryer had a, you know there was a plastic vent attached to it instead of a metal vent attached and you know, if Brian was serious about the plastic vents, then they might stop the local hardware stores and building supply stores from selling them if they truly are a safety hazard.

12:42 – Doug (Host)
And I think there was even a small gas leak too, supposedly reported.

12:47 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
Yes, and which, by the way, they fixed, you know, on the spot. I mean, it was a very minor. You’re always going to have things like that, but, doug, I’ve passed her every church, I’ve passed her. We had some sort of social outreach, from a food bank to we had an apartment where people could stay. We took care of, you know, we cared for homeless people numerous times over the year and we had a clothing room and all these various things that we did. You know, and we’re, we’re, we’re the every aspect of what we did according to the strict interpretation of zoning laws. Well, of course not, they weren’t.

It’s kind of hard to you know, the zoning laws are written, you know, at, let’s say, 2020, and you’re you’re dealing with buildings that were, you know, some of them are 50, 60, 70, you know, even 80 years old, and so you have to try to. You know, what I would like to see in all of this is that there be, you know, there’s the letter of the law, and then there’s the spirit of the law, and so how can we come to a common understanding with this, help the homeless people at the same time and yet make sure, you know, that it’s a safe environment and it needs to be a safe environment. Don’t get me wrong. And if Chris and Dad’s place are actually doing things that are that could harm people, then I’m all for you know them being forced to require to do that. But from what I understand is is that Brian’s zoning forbids them from housing people period, regardless of the zoning.

14:39 – Doug (Host)
Yeah, on the first floor, yeah.

14:40 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
Yeah, you know, and so it’s kind of a mute issue about the zoning, because it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter, it could be a brand new building. We’re still not going to let you do this, yeah.

14:53 – Doug (Host)
And I could probably assure you too, that inspecting churches and religious organization buildings for zoning violations is the least likely on the list of things, yeah.

There’s zoning enforcement’s going to do, because they’re just not. They, they look, they look the other way most of the time for a lot of this stuff. Maybe if they have a daycare they might get some extra special attention, or if they’re serving food like a soup kitchen they’ll get inspected for health and health and safety. But if it’s just a plain church, I don’t think so, unless somebody complains and it looks like for some reason somebody’s complaining, and this is the other part that I kind of wanted to mention.

15:40 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
Who is?

15:41 – Doug (Host)
complaining. Huh, who is complaining? The city’s complaining, okay, and I think what it is is a lot of these cities use zoning to weed out entities that they do not want in certain areas of town. Right, and so if, if you are making money for the city and tax base for the city, they’re less, they’re more likely to work with you to get special use permits or to change the zoning. If you are something that they don’t like, they are not going to work with you. So I get that part.

16:21 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
And I’ve worn pastors that start new churches in storefronts, I said look, I says there’s a quirk in Ohio law that when, when, when, you start these churches, if it was previously a some sort of retail store and you’re starting a church in the same building, then it’s really a change of use, and so the state can come in technically and say hey, you know, you’ve had a change of use. You didn’t notify us of that, you didn’t apply for a change of use, and so you know you’re, you’re running, basically, you know an illegal operation. But the problem is is that there’s no consistency with those laws and that’s why this seems, you know, somewhat subjective to me. And so I want to know, okay, you know what? What provoked this initially Was it?

Was it a business that you know didn’t like the, the number of people coming through through dad’s place, didn’t they like them? Out on the street? I know the police department was saying well, you know they’ve had an increase in calls to the place and and okay, well, I can point to half a dozen bars in town where I guarantee you have increased calls.

17:41 – Doug (Host)
And they said and they’ve the. The pastor said he’s never had more than 20 people there, right? So I don’t know what these extra calls they’re talking about, unless it’s people hanging out outside smoking or or begging for money. You know that could be right. Right? For more information about any of the topics covered in this episode, check out our show notes at secularleftus.

18:14 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
Yeah, and and some of the problems you take. For example, I haven’t met a wrote an article today at the friendly atheist and, and I like him, but he is so far off the mark on this issue that it’s not funny, and you know. And he starts with the premise that well, dad’s place isn’t even a church and that you know, actually, you know that they’re like a video store or you know a pinball, you know arcade, you know, and, but in fact it’s because Hemet’s never been here. He doesn’t understand how evangelical churches were. The fact is is that that little arcade is at the front of this building. It’s a very small part of it and the church operates in this huge space in the back of this building and there’s always been an alleyway door where you can get access to this part of the building.

There have been numerous religious groups in and out of there over the years, including in the late 1990s. There was a. Some local people got together and started some sort of youth ministry and and taught that they would, you know, bring in rock and roll, christian rock and roll groups and whatnot, and taught they would appeal to the kids and, and it was a miserable failure. But so this space has had religious activity in it in its past and you know it’s nothing abnormal that’s going on here. You know, and from my perspective, look, I’ve I’ve started several churches over the years. Some of them were storefront nearby West Unity. You know, we started a church there and you know, and technically we were in several areas probably in violation of zoning laws, but in every way we made the buildings better. You know. So, for example, the building that we purchased used to be the West Unity Public Library, and so we put in a couple of handicapped compliant, ADA compliant bathrooms and poor new cement and ran, did all, did all this work and write up the code, even though we didn’t have a permit to do it. We followed the code and whatnot.

Now, the old bathroom that was the library’s bathroom Well, it was a one-seater that you had to. There was a step, you had to step up into it, and so I remember I can do electrical work, and so I remember we had to replace a light and a switch in that bathroom. I said, okay, I’m gonna replace that light and that switch, and so I pull everything out, come to find out that the person who did the previous work had taken extension cords, cut the ends off of them and use that for the wiring inside the walls and so okay. So me, I look at that and I say, hey, we made this building better in every way. Is it strictly compliant? No, if you looked at our auditorium, for example, technically there should have been three aisle ways in the auditorium. Well, it wasn’t big enough for three aisle ways, so we had one big aisle way down the middle, technically in violation of fire code.

I would say, for the most part, part of me says dammit, obey the law. That’s what the law is there for and we should do our best to obey the law. But also, I know sometimes we get in our car and we drive 80 miles an hour down the freeway too and we break the law. And so, as long as it’s not a health and safety issue, I’m willing to give some of these places a break, as long as they’re working towards improving the space. Now, if dad’s place, if they’re doing things that are putting people in physical harm, then that stuff needs to be immediately corrected. And I don’t know how Chris’s approach has been to the city and to village, to city officials. I don’t know if it was an adversarial rule, and that’s the problem. All of a sudden, the outside of this, we don’t know what’s going on in these various discussions and whatnot, and what’s the driving motivation behind these things.

22:49 – Doug (Host)
Well, the only thing that I know is from the reports that I’ve read and they had an article in the Bryan city paper the village something.

23:01 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
Well, there’s the Bryan time, then there’s a village reporter.

23:04 – Doug (Host)
It was a village reporter. Yeah, and that’s how the West Unity yep, right, and basically what they did was the city tried to work with them. They even had somebody that was offering a building outside of downtown that they could then legally have a shelter at, and he turned them down. Right, that’s what the city’s reporting.

23:26 – WTVG Report (Other)
Right, yeah, and that’s problematic, so that they’ve been trying to work with them.

23:30 – Doug (Host)
Since at least November they’ve been trying to work with them even more and he’s refused to work with the city, and then that’s when they filed the charges. So it wasn’t like all of a sudden, hey, you’ve got homeless people, here’s your, you’re under arrest. It’s not like that Liberty Institute’s kind of playing it up that way, but that’s not how it was.

23:50 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
Right, yeah, and so that, and I’d like to have more information because I read that and I certainly would want to know more information about that. And was this a cost issue? Was this a? I don’t know? There are factors that I don’t know about that particular issue, but certainly that would address the problem with being downtown and though, for me, I don’t understand it, because there’s a homeless shelter downtown.

24:23 – Doug (Host)
Well, I think probably they’re afraid that there’s going to be multiple homeless shelters downtown.

24:30 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
It’s certainly possible.

24:32 – Doug (Host)
So they want to nip it in the bud, as Barney Fyfe used to say. Yeah, but what I was going to say is that you know, I’m with you on the part about, you know, obeying the law, and that’s the real conflict that I have with this issue is that I see this too often where a religious group doesn’t like a particular law and so then they file a federal lawsuit and it gets changed where they don’t have to file the law. They did that with the mask mandates and the closing for the pandemic, and so what I think what happened maybe, is that Chris decided, you know, he was called to help people that needed homes. I get that, and I just think he’s in over his head. I don’t think he realized how much paperwork you know.

That’s why a lot of these shelters are such a large organization. Right, Because it’s not something where you just throw open your doors and welcome people in. You know there’s things that you have to do and money you have to spend to make it safe. And the other thing, too, that is, he’s not offering any services to these people other than religious services. You know he’s not trying to find a permanent housing. He’s not trying to work with social workers, at least according to the reports I’ve seen. Right, you know that’s something else a shelter does, right, so right now he’s just warehousing people. Yes.

And I really don’t think that that’s gonna solve any long-term issues.

26:11 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
Well, it solves. The short-term problem is that you have people standing outside that are cold and you know they need a place to stay, and you know, and food to eat. But let me share it from the. I understand his religious persuasions quite well, you know, and you know because I was driven by similar motivations, you know, you know, years ago, and that I believed I had a higher calling that superseded anything that the government or the law might tell me. This is my duty, given to me by God. You know to do these things, and so we, you know. You take, for example, in Southeast Ohio.

I passed into church there for 11 years and we started a Christian school down there, a tuition-free school, and the school children were woefully educated and we thought we would try to, you know, improve their lot in life. And one of the things was to the church had a water well that was 20 feet deep and 20 feet, and the water that came out of the tap was red, so filled with iron that it was undrinkable, and we had to use these brine tanks just to clean the water up. Enough to use them, you know. And so my in-laws donated a couple of thousand dollars to the church and said, you know, put in a new well. And so we put in a new well and you know a couple hundred feet deep and nice water and all of that. And you know, in a couple of months after the well’s done, here shows up the Ohio EPA and says, well, because you have a school here, you’re considered a public waterway. Now I thought, okay, gotta test every three months. Okay, oh, and, by the way, your well is too close. Your new well is too close to the property line, you’re gonna have to move it.

And I remember telling that inspector. I said here’s the deal. I said we had a 20 foot well before with red water, and now we have a nice well and you’re saying, because it’s a few feet too close to the property line, we have to move it. And I was, and I can see where, chris, you can get this way. I just looked at him and said that’s not gonna happen and if you wanna press this issue, we’ll see you in court. Maybe that was just that simple. And he decided that that few feet really didn’t matter so much after all. And so there’s things like that that happens Now.

The difference here is, of course, you’ve got people sleeping in a building, and that is a higher level of risk, you know, especially if there’s a threat of fire or carbon monoxide or things like that, and so I hope the church is doing everything it can to, you know, address those issues.

You know, on a side thing, you know, one thing that trolled me in all of this is that the city of Brian would have taken a civil approach to this and they could have gone that route. I think I’m not a lawyer, so it troubles me that you filed criminal charges against this pastor and he could end up in jail over this, and so that seems extreme. And the fact that let’s be clear it also turns pastors into martyrs. When you do that, that’s the other side of it. They become the martyr and you become the victimizer. And so I’m both parts, I think both parties. It’d be good if they take a step back and say okay, how can we remediate this? And I don’t know. It seems to me, at least from what I’ve read so far, is that both sides have dug in their heels and we’ll see where it goes from there.

30:35 – Doug (Host)
Hello, this is Doug, host of Secular Left, reminding you that I like to be validated. If you like this podcast and want to thank me, feel free to buy me a coffee. Go to buymeacoffeecom. Slash Secular Left and donate some cash to help make this a better show and validate me as a person. You’ll feel better in the morning. Well, I originally, when I first heard about it, special use permit or something like that are working to change the zoning of that particular building. Because they can do that. They can change particular spots.

And this would be a way of at least going putting in like a temporary overlay or some stuff like that. But I guess that they had decided the city had decided that that was not possible. You could not have a special use permit to allow residential living in the first floor at all. It’s so hibited in a C3 commercial thing. And they were talking about the shelter next door, saying that they are already compliant with all the zoning regulations and it used to be, I think, a thrift shop before it was a shelter.

32:05 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
Because, I saw the picture. Yeah, there was a thrift shop there.

32:10 – Doug (Host)
The place that they sold stuff for the church.

32:13 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
Yeah, originally the church itself, Grace Community Church, was downtown. That was their whole purpose. I remember their motto was we’re downtown, that’s because that’s where the people are. But they eventually gathered up enough people and money, they went outside of town and built a brand new building, such as the way.

32:36 – Doug (Host)
But yeah, I just I am flummoxed because, again, this is like a special condition, right, because you have people involved that are vulnerable and they need help and I don’t want to sound like a Grinch or a Scrooge, but it’s like they need to apply. If it comes to find out that they’re applying these zoning regulations equally, the pastor doesn’t have an argument. My fear is because Liberty First, liberty Institute’s involved is they’re just gonna get a good judge and it’s just gonna chuck everything away, right, and he’s gonna get what he wants, but it’s gonna affect the city of Bryan from that point, forward.

33:27 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
Well, yeah, and that’s always the danger. You know, when I pastored in West Unity for seven years you understand my backgrounds, you’ll appreciate this. I wouldn’t do this now, of course. But the city of West, the village of West Unity, was dry. There was no liquor, one of the last dry towns in the state of Ohio and so they decided to put a liquor option on the ballot. And boy oh boy, I says absolutely not, and I campaigned against that and got other churches involved and the issue went down to defeat. I mean, we won decidedly on that issue. But here’s the problem with that is that, yes, I won, but I ruined my reputation in town as a result of that, because across the street at the American Legion, which wanted to sell liquor and can’t, I was Pastor M Effer, I was Pastor SOB, I was Pastor, you know, and so I ruined any opportunity that I had to minister to them, to reach them, because I was just the guy that kept them from buying beer on Friday night.

34:53 – Doug (Host)
Yeah, don’t mess with veterans’ beers, man, that’s right, you know and so you have to weigh these battles carefully.

35:03 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
And in retrospect I never would have did that. And I remember one of the afterwards I got a notice from the Ohio Attorney General, or maybe in a Secretary of State, and that I was in violation of election law and somebody had turned me in because we had printed up these flyers, the handout, and we didn’t put on the bottom who paid for the flyers. And so it was a technicality, but I had to go through this whole rigmarole and promise that we would never, ever do it again. And it was a, you know, it was rather expensive, fine, and they waved the fine and whatnot, and you know, and so you know it’s-.

35:53 – Doug (Host)
Yeah, well, I can rest. The listener’s minds about this is that Chris Avell is not being persecuted because he’s religious or he’s a Christian. Everybody that is wanting him to follow the zoning laws. They’re all Christians, right right. They go to church just like everybody else.

36:16 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)

36:17 – Doug (Host)
You know, I really do think that it’s a matter of it’s a homeless shelter, Right, that’s why it’s being targeted is because it’s a homeless shelter, not because it’s Christian.

36:28 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)

Yes, and yeah, I think if you and I, as the humanists of Williams County you know, started a homeless shelter in the same building, we’d end up with the same problem, because you know we’re violating the zoning law. So the only question to me is okay, so how do you resolve this? Because what ends up is, you know, you know I’ve read some comments in the national media about the city of Bryan and about Bryan leaders that, my God, they make the mayor of Bryan sound out like she’s, you know, satan personified, and this is simply not true. You know these are good people. There’s a difference of opinion here. And let me be clear, like you have said, that while there may be individual instances of persecution somewhere in the United States, generally, overwhelmingly, christians are not persecuted in this country. You know, they’re inconvenienced, they’ve had their preferential place at the table challenged perhaps, but they are not persecuted. They don’t have any idea what real persecution is.

37:48 – Doug (Host)
Yeah, that’s what happened this week against trans kids. Yes, that was persecution.

37:54 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
Yes, absolutely. So you have these kind of minor skirmishes going on over here with this kind of stuff, and then you have, you know, the Republicans in the Ohio legislature doing things like this. That are just, you know. They’re abomination, you know, and harmful to people.

38:10 – Doug (Host)
Well, I think that Pastor Chris Avell he’s not going to be missing out any donations. I think he’s going to be making a lot of money off of this. I guess he’s already appeared on several conservative talk shows already. Might be podcasts or radio shows.

38:28 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
I think he was on Fox News.

38:30 – Doug (Host)
Was he on Fox News already?

38:32 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
Yeah, gotta go on Fox News.

38:34 – Doug (Host)
Yeah, so they’re going to be making a lot of money, and I really do. There’s a really good chance that he’s going to win his court case, because that’s just the atmosphere that we’re in right now is that all they have to do is say they’re being persecuted, and the courts tend to agree whether there is or there isn’t. And, like I said, I really do think it’s just the fact that it’s a homeless shelter and the leaders of Brian do not want more than one shelter in downtown. I really do. I really think that’s the crust of it.

39:09 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
Yes, and so now the issue is is how do you roll all this back without getting, because, first of all, the city of Brian’s going to end up with a lot of legal expenses? I assume, first, liberty is representing Pastor Avello free of charge?

39:30 – Doug (Host)
Yeah, and they have two other law firms that are helping out.

39:34 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
Right, and so it’s the city that’s going to bear the brunt of this. And you’re well aware, I mean, there’s been this move in the last 10, 20 years towards this really warped interpretation of church state issues in this country and we’ve kind of been going backwards as far as those issues are concerned. And it seems that the courts they really do give churches and religion preferential treatment and they tend to have a very broad interpretation of the establishment clause and the various laws that affect church and government relationships. And there was a day, I think, when people could sit down and and I’ve sat down with political leaders and said, hey, how do we work this out? I remember when we started the Christian school in Southeast Ohio, I mean I was a thorn in the side of the local school superintendent. I mean I was, you know from them, teaching evolution to, you know, sex ed class and all that. And so when I started the school, he was glad to see me go. He was glad, fine, he even gave me desks for our school. I mean he said here’s some desks we’re not using anymore. You’re welcome to them. And you know, when he sat, he and I sat down and we talked and it was honestly.

Just, it’s a difference of worldview, you know, and, and look, chris is a fundamentalist, there’s no question about that, and I mean, he might grade at that, and you know that label.

But his, his beliefs are, you know, are solidly evangelical, which I think are inherently fundamentalist. And you know, and so he’s coming from a very literalist, you know, biblicist point of view. And, boy, when you, when you come from that point of view, it’s hard to bend sometimes because God says, well, you know, the Holy Spirit told me, you know, and you know, well, what do you do with that? If the Holy Spirit told you to, you know, house people in your church and to feed them and whatnot, and then, boy, it’s hard to say no to God, you know, and of course, for us we’re looking at, say, well, that’s not God, it’s something you want to do, you know, whatever your motivations are and I think his motivations are, for the most part, noble and honorable, and you know, and I think that he just wants to help people and he’s always been the type of guy that you know, seems to have a genuine interest in, you know, in helping other people.

42:37 – Doug (Host)
All right. Well, bruce, I really appreciate you joining us today to talk about this issue. I’m sure it’s going to be an issue for quite some time. Maybe Depends on how how intractable the city is and how intractable Chris becomes yes, with his newfound friends and I do want to note too, that Brian is not too far from Hillsdale College.

43:03 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
Yes, yes, yeah.

43:04 – Doug (Host)
The kingdom of conservative Christianity.

43:08 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
So yeah and I’d be surprised if they don’t to some degree. You know, maybe weigh in on this, you know, yeah, they’re what, 25, 30 miles away maybe, at the most, and Right.

43:20 – Doug (Host)
So we’ll hear what Betsy DeVos has to say.

43:22 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
I guess yes.

43:24 – Doug (Host)
All right, thanks a lot, I appreciate your time.

43:27 – Bruce Gerencser (Guest)
Yes, thanks Doug.

43:30 – Doug (Host)
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