By Nathan James
A homophobic Harlem church, deeply in debt to the federal government and numerous other creditors, will not be sold at a foreclosure auction next week, a New York Supreme Court judge has ruled. A temporary restraining order, issued by Judge Barbara Jaffe, stops any sale of the ATLAH World Ministries, at least until an April 21 hearing on the matter, according to Stuart Shaw, the attorney for the building’s owner, Pastor James David Manning.
Manning has remained defiant in the face of a 1.2 million judgment against his church, imposed last month in Civil Court, for unpaid tax liens, utility bills, and service fees, vowing that he will not allow its sale.
When the foreclosure ruling was handed down, a LGBT-affirming church, Rivers of Living waters, headed by Pastor Vanessa Brown, and a LGBT homeless shelter organization, the Ali Forney Center, began fundraising drives to purchase the building.
Brown’s church is seeking a permanent home, while the Ali Forney group hopes to convert the structure into a transitional housing facility for LGBT youth. But Manning said,”I will let my church go to these gay sodomites, when they start birthing babies out of their anuses. We will use every legal means available to stop this politically-motivated action”.
The church became notorious over the past three decades for its virulently anti-gay public statements, very visibly expressed on its marquee sign, with incendiary messages such as “Jesus would stone homos”, and attacks on President Obama’s progressive LGBT policies. “There will be no foreclosure sale,” Shaw insisted, “even if some people dislike Pastor Manning’s message.”
But the city’s Department of Finance remained confident the sale would take place, albeit with a delay. “The default judgment is not open to interpretation,” city officials said, noting that they will “vigorously argue [our] position” at the April hearing on the matter.
Real-estate developers were also said to be eyeing the building, which sits on the corner of Lenox Avenue and W. 123rd Street, in “the hottest land ticket in Manhattan”, according to speculators familiar with the case.
The Harlem section is undergoing a rapid gentrification, making the ATLAH site “potentially worth hundreds of millions”, realty sources said. Manning, meanwhile, said he will hold a “special event” tomorrow at his church, to celebrate the judge’s decision.