NOTE: This post contains profanity.
ATLAH Worldwide Missionary Church, a congregation in Harlem, New York, is a constant source of controversy. James David Manning, the pastor of ATLAH Worldwide Missionary Church, is infamous for his homophobia. His most ridiculous and memorable claim was that Starbucks puts "sodomite semen" in its lattes. ATLAH regularly posts messages on its marquee such as "Jesus Would Stone Homos ... Stoning Is Still the Law" and "Harlem Is a Sodomite Free Zone; Stop Sodomizing Our Children in Schools Across America", according to Huffington Post. Predictably, Manning's reactions to pro-LGBTQ demonstrators outside his church has been hateful and angry.
Last summer, ATLAH and Oath Keepers co-hosted an Independence Day gathering in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The event was ostensibly about racial reconciliation, but quickly turned into a circus with anti-government rhetoric and chants of "Sodomites, go to hell!".
Now, ATLAH is in financial trouble. DNAinfo reports that a New York judge ordered ATLAH Worldwide Church to be sold at a public foreclosure auction on February 24th. The church failed to pay more than $1 million to creditors, including $194,000 in unpaid water bills. Manning has a long history of financial woes, including nine federal tax liens stretching back to 2002, according to DNAinfo.
When news of the auction became public, a New-York based organization that serves homeless LGBTQ youth went into action. The Ali Forney Center launched the #HarlemNoHate campaign to raise money to purchase the building, and recently reached its fundraising goal of $200,000, according to the Advocate. In order to be a competitive contender in the auction, #HarlemNoHate will continue to fundraise.
In a commentary piece at Huffington Post, Ali Forney Center executive director Carl Siciliano explained why the organization wanted to buy the ATLAH building. First, New York has a large number of homeless LGBTQ youth who need housing, but a limited number of shelter beds. Second, the ATLAH building is in walking distance of the Ali Forney Center's drop-in center in Harlem, where homeless LGBTQ youth receive health care, educational services, and vocational services. Third, the ATLAH building would be an ideal space for the organization's catering program, which would provide work training for LGBTQ youth. Siciliano also recognized the symbolic importance of turning a bigoted church into "a space of compassion and healing".
Manning is not taking the news gracefully. In a profanity-peppered video entitled "Foreclosure Tax Message to My Enemies", Manning claimed that gay men would give birth before they would ever own his church building.
"To all the sodomites that think that you're going to purchase this church in a foreclosure sale, let me tell you something. Before you can ever own the Lord's house, 'cause that's what this is. This is the Lord's house. This ain't no damn bath house. This ain't no f*g house. This is the Lord's house! And before you can ever own this property, hook or crook to own this property ... men who are f**s with testicles will be carrying babies in their testicles and giving birth to them through their anus! That's how impossible it is for you to get this house. When you start carrying a baby in your bags and birthing that baby through your a**, then you can own this house ... All you f**s can go to hell! And do it now! I'M JAMES DAVID MANNING, EVERYBODY! I'M THE LORD'S!"Okay then.
The imminent foreclosure is bringing out even more venom from Manning. In another video entitled "Sodomites Plan To Kill Dr. Manning In The Street", Manning imagined himself as a persecuted hero for the common man. At the 13:16 mark, he shouted the following rant, before crying out, "Bill de Blasio, you grabbed the wrong n****r's church when you grabbed James David Manning!"
"How many people in Harlem [inaudible] and across America have been evicted from their apartments? Landlords wouldn't given them services, continued to harass them, raise the rent so that the landlords can thrown them out and put the sodomites and others into an apartment that was once $170 a month, now going for $3700 a month. How many people that we never heard about in the media ... because they didn't have the visibility or the standing politically that I have? How many people have faced what I'm facing, and nobody came to help them? How many families have been thrown to the street? How many small churches with just a few members have been crushed by the city of New York? ... These people are suffering. They're homeless today. They don't have a place to worship today because no one came to help them.
But bless God, by the strength of Almighty God, what these sodomites, what de Blasio and Cuomo--what they have done is they have awakened a sleeping giant. And now, I shall stand for all the poor people. I shall stand for all of the foreclosed people, all of the people who have been evicted, all of the people that are homeless because of laws and practices that are unjust laws and unjust practices, and all the landlords that are greedy and have no concern, and the community leaders and politicians that will not stand with the people. I have now been raised up to be a voice crying out in the wilderness. It must stop!"
Being evicted? Being denied housing services? LGBTQ people can relate, I assure you. Oh, you want to talk about people who are homeless because of unjust practices? Let's talk about LGBTQ youth who were kicked out of their homes by homophobic and transphobic parents. You know, the people that the Ali Forney Center helps?
With ten days to go before the foreclosure auction on the ATLAH building, we can expect more venom from Manning and more support for #HarlemNoHate. Let's hope that the Ali Forney Center succeeds in purchasing the building and providing more services for New York's homeless LGBTQ youth. If nothing else, the karmic irony would be delicious.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
Wall of Separation: Haters (Not) Gonna Hate: Infamous N.Y. Anti-Gay Church Now For Sale At Auction
New York Daily News: LGBT spiritual group Rivers of Living Water attempts to buy famously anti-gay Atlah Church in Harlem