BY PAUL SCHINDLER | For years, the Blood of Jesus Atlah World Missionary Church at 123rd Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem has been a beacon of hate. For a congregation led by an African-American minister, James David Manning, the vitriol on the church’s marquee-style signs aimed at President Barack Obama has been shocking, but the ugliness there is dwarfed by the rabid homophobia that is Manning’s primary preoccupation.
When Gay City News last checked in this past autumn, the signs read, “Join the revolution to drive the sodomite interlopers, freaks and slave master land grabbers out of Harlem,” with the flip side saying, “You sodomites and freaks have soiled Harlem but ye shall be moved. Payback is a bitch.”
Payback is… er… rough, isn’t it, Pastor Manning?
Last week, DNAinfo.com reported that the church has amassed tax liens and unpaid bills to creditors totaling more than $1 million and that a state judge has ordered the building be put up for auction on February 24.
Enter the Ali Forney Center, the nation’s largest provider of housing and social services for homeless LGBT youth, currently providing safe housing for 107 youths, including 24 in the same neighborhood as Manning’s offensive signage. AFC has undertaken a fundraising drive with a target of $200,000, which its executive director, Carl Siciliano, says could be leveraged against other financial commitments and sources to purchase the building.
“The biggest reason our youths are driven from their homes is because of homophobic and transphobic religious beliefs of their parents,” said Siciliano, “Because of this, it has been horrifying for us to have our youths exposed to Manning's messages inciting hatred and violence against our community. It has meant the world to us that so many Harlem residents have stood up to support our young people, and are now urging us to provide urgently needed care at the site of so much hatred. If we are able to obtain the space it would truly be a triumph of love over hatred.”
Since just this past weekend, AFC has raised more than $155,000 toward its goal. Siciliano promises that if the purchase does not go through, the group will dedicate the money raised “to increase its housing and vocational services for homeless LGBT youth in another site.”
Manning, however, is not ready to go quietly. In an extraordinarily vituperative YouTube video titled “Foreclosure Tax Message to My Enemies” (at goo.gl/uG70Fk), he insisted that the building is “the Lord’s House… not a bathhouse or a fag house.” AFC would succeed, he said, only when gay men are able to “carry babies in their testicles and give birth through their anuses.” Manning has suggested he has friends willing to help him financially to avoid the loss of his building.
AFC is not alone in trying to rid Harlem of Manning’s insidious influence. In fact, the church’s hatemongering was a major topic at a November 5 LGBT town hall hosted by Community Board 10 and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. Love Not Hate is a local community group battling Manning’s congregation, and the group’s coordinator, Stacy Parker Le Melle, said this week, “When the Atlah story broke on Thursday, immediately I heard from neighbors: wouldn’t it be amazing if an LGBT group could acquire the property? What if it were the Ali Forney Center? We all knew that this would be poetic justice. We need to care for those kicked out of homes, often on religious-based grounds. We need to care for those most vulnerable to Atlah’s hate speech.”
Amen to that. You can help by going to AFC’s fundraising page at goo.gl/Sa0ZSz.