Judge: Church may stay at Purchase, leader must go

Judge: Church may stay at Purchase, leader must go

The Journal News (New York), April 17 1999
By Bill Varner

NEW YORK — U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon has ruled that the controversial New York City Church of Christ can resume holding services at Purchase College but that the school’s suspension of a leader of the church’s Bible study group is justified.

It was a 53-page, split decision by McMahon on dual motions for preliminary injunctions against the college.

Andrea Lark and the church, a branch of the International Churches of Christ, which has been called a cult, are suing Purchase College in U.S. District Court in White Plains.

The complaint, filed Jan. 12, alleged the college violated their Constitutional rights by prohibiting the church’s Westchester congregation from meeting on the campus and by suspending Lark for violating the college’s community standards of conduct.

Lark, a 28-year-old junior from Fairfield, Conn., was suspended in July for allegedly “intimidating … harassing … and detaining” a member of the Bible study group.

The church’s Westchester congregation was told in October that it could not continue to rent the school’s Performing Arts Center.

It was the first such lawsuit brought by the church or one of its branches. The ICC reports 150,000 members in 153 countries.

A spokesman for state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, whose office is handling the case on behalf of Purchase College, declined comment. Ilann Maazel, an attorney representing Lark and the church, said the plaintiffs are “considering all possibilities.”

McMahon ruled that a “preponderance of credible evidence” showed Lark kept the student on campus against her will. However, she also ruled the college failed to demonstrate that Lark was guilty of violating three other standards of conduct.

McMahon also wrote that revocation of the church’s arts center contract was “an exercise in content-based discrimination.”

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