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Anti-Gay Harlem Pastor Defies City Again by Adding TV to Controversial Sign

By Gustavo Solis | August 30, 2017 5:43pm
 The controversial church installed a new outdoor television where they broadcast sermons of a pastor who routinely refers to gay people as sodomites.
Atlah Worldwide Ministries
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HARLEM — The homophobic pastor of a landmarked Harlem church doesn't believe in asking for permission or begging for forgiveness.

Atlah Worldwide Ministries' top holy man James David Manning, recently attached a large television to a sign that regularly featured controversial statements outside his landmarked West 123rd Street church, despite knowing it violated city laws.

Manning owes the city $23,000 for previous landmark violations related to building alternations, including the notorious sign that often espouses racist and homophobic messages.

He said he didn't ask for permission to install the TV because he thought the city wouldn't allow it.

"They've already condemned the [existing] sign for being in violation, so what am I supposed to do?" he told DNAinfo Wednesday.

The television plays three-hour-long sermons on one side of the sign, which has been used to promote Manning's interpretation of the Bible.

Previous language on the sign has stated that "Jesus would stone gays," while it currently states that President Donald Trump and gay people want to "make America white again."

Manning had previously met with the president when he was a candidate and endorsed him during the election.

The video loop of the pastor preaching is mostly drowned out by traffic noise, but snippets of the sermons can still be heard.

While the historic church's landmark status means any changes to the structure must be approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Manning has traditionally ignored the rules.

As DNAinfo previously reported, the pastor has made five illegal alterations to the church without asking for approval, including the sign he uses to broadcast his messages.

The TV is no different, according to the commission.

"No permit has been issued for the work, and this is currently under LPC investigation," spokeswoman Damaris Olivo said.

Since 2013, the commission has tried to work with Atlah to correct violations. The agency prefers to work with buildings to retroactively approve alterations, but they can also fine those who do not cooperate.

The church has been fined $24,850 for landmark violations since 2015, according to the commission. 

The first fine, issued on August 2015 for $1,850, was paid, while the second, issued in June 2016 for $11,50, was not. Due to the lack of payment, the commission issued Atlah another $11,500 fine on July 2017 — bringing the total currently owed to $23,000.

Manning believes he is being targeted for his race and does not plan to pay any fines unless he is ordered to by a court.

When asked if he plans to make any more alterations to the building, the pastor responded, "We'll see."