Judge orders Purchase College to OK church service

New York Journal News/May 8, 1999
By Bill Varner

The New York City Church of Christ, the local branch of an evangelical church that has been called a cult, is scheduled to resume services in the Performing Arts Center at Purchase College tomorrow.

The college rented space to the church throughout 1997 and most of 1998, but revoked its contract with the congregation in October. The church challenged that decision in a lawsuit filed in January in U.S. District Court in White Plains, and Judge Colleen McMahon ruled last month that the revocation was not justified.

A college spokesman confirmed that the church has reserved 12 dates this year, running through October.

"We are glad to be able to meet there again," said Mount Vernon resident Samuel Powell, an elder in the New York City Church of Christ. "It is very convenient for us, and we need the time, so we feel good about that."

Meanwhile, McMahon's decision to affirm the college's July suspension of Andrea Lark, a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit, will be appealed. Emery Cuti Brinckerhoff & Abady, the Manhattan law firm representing the former leader of the church's campus Bible study group, filed a notice of appeal yesterday in White Plains federal court.

Lark, a 28-year-old junior from Fairfield, Conn., was suspended for violating the college's community standards of conduct. She was found guilty of "intimidating ... harassing ... and detaining" another member of the Bible study group.

McMahon ruled the suspension did not violate Lark's constitutional rights.

The New York City Church of Christ is a branch of the International Churches of Christ, which reports 150,000 members in 153 countries. Some former members and cult-monitoring groups say ICC leaders practice mind-control techniques that produce psychological damage, a charge the church vigorously denies.

The local church averaged attendance of more than 300 people at the Performing Arts Center, according to Powell, a New York Church of Christ minister.

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