A Christian ministry filed a lawsuit yesterday in federal court against the state of Tennessee for forcing it to obtain a license in order to continue.

Last month, the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities designated the non-profit group Love in Action a “mental health supportive living facility” and informed the ministry it must cease operations by Sept. 30 if it didn’t apply for a license or comply with the department’s demands.

“This is harassment, pure and simple,” said Nate Kellum, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which represents the group.

“There is no legitimate state interest here,” he said. “There’s no health or safety violation, and there’s no fire code or overcrowding concern.”

Kellum argues Love in Action’s ministry has nothing to do with mental health as defined by law.

He claims the state is “trying to turn a Christian ministry into a state-regulated mental hospital.”

“By the state’s reasoning, a homeless shelter would become a medical clinic if a homeless person were taking antibiotics for some minor infection,” Kellum said.

“Do we want the state to shut down private organizations that are helping people who are struggling?”

ADF filed the complaint and motion for preliminary injunction [pdf file] in the U.S. District Court for the District of Tennessee, Memphis Division.

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