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Controversial Atlah Church Avoids Foreclosure Once Again

By Dartunorro Clark | September 1, 2016 5:38pm | Updated on September 2, 2016 5:14pm
 Harlem's controversial Atlah Worldwide Missionary Church on Lenox Avenue has avoided another attempt to foreclose on the property. 
Harlem's controversial Atlah Worldwide Missionary Church on Lenox Avenue has avoided another attempt to foreclose on the property. 
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

HARLEM — Harlem's homophobic Atlah Worldwide Missionary Church has thwarted yet another attempt at foreclosure, according to court documents filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.

Judge Manuel J. Mendez ordered this week that the judgment of foreclosure and sale ordered last year be vacated.

On Dec. 17, Judge Joan Kenny ordered a public foreclosure auction after the church failed to pay creditors more than $1.02 million, DNAinfo New York previously reported.

Stuart F. Shaw, a lawyer representing the church, said the decision is effectively putting the sale and judgment of foreclosure on hold until there is a determination of whether the church can be taxed. A new court date has yet to be issued.

The Rev. James Manning, the church’s pastor, has been known for placing blatantly anti-gay messages, such as “Jesus would stone homos,” on its marquee.

The church’s potential foreclosure has also been a closely-watched spectacle, with two online campaigns launched earlier this year to turn it into a center for LGBT youth if a public sale were to happen.

The campaigns were started by the LGBT-inclusive church River of Living Waters Ministries and the Ali Forney Center, the country’s largest organization for helping LGBT homeless youth.

Manning did not respond to a request for comment.

The church, located at 36 W. 123rd St., has maintained that as a religious institution Atlah is tax-exempt. The building is worth about $10 million dollars, according to court documents.

“Our fundamental position is there are no taxes owed,” Shaw told DNAinfo.

DNAinfo previously reported that there are also nine federal tax liens against Manning totaling more than $355,000 from as far back as 2002. He also owes New York State more than $28,000 and other creditors more than $30,000, public records show.

According to city records, the Internal Revenue Service released a federal lien against Manning in 2006 and the Bank of New York Mellon was assigned that lien in 2010.

The city has argued that since the church also has apartments in a portion of the building, the taxes are legitimate. A lawyer representing the city in the matter did not respond to multiple calls seeking comment.

Mendez said in court documents that the church provided the court with a “reasonable excuse,” since it may not owe money because of the tax-exempt argument.

“As such…the default judgment and foreclosure sale are vacated,” the order said.