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Congregation of H.O.P.E.-L.I.F.E. Noah's Ark Church, Inc. v. Ramirez

Supreme Court, New York County

April 18, 2013

CONGREGATION OF H.O.P.E.-L.I.F.E. NOAH'S ARK CHURCH, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
REVEREND RICHARD RAMIREZ AND ROBERT M. MANNERS, AND H.O.P.E.-L.I.F.E. NOAH'S ARK CHURCH, INC., Defendants. Index No. 114662/09

Unpublished Opinion

Submission Date: 12/19/12

For Plaintiff Chadbourne & Parke LLP

For Defendant Law Office of Matthew S. Porges, Esq.

DECISION AND ORDER

SALIANN SCARPULLA, J.

Papers considered in review of this motion to dismiss:

Notice of Motion...............1
AffinOpp................... .2
Reply........................3

In this action challenging the election of a pastor, defendant H.O.P.E.-L.I.F.E. Noah's Ark Church, Inc. ("H.O.P.E.") moves to dismiss the complaint as asserted against all defendants.

Congregation of H.O.P.E.-L.I.F.E. Noah's Ark Church, Inc. ("Congregation") commenced this action alleging that H.O.P.E.-L.I.F.E. Noah's Ark Church pastor Richard Ramirez ("Ramirez") and assistant pastor Robert Manners ("Manners") (1) orchestrated the appointment of Ramirez as pastor to control the church and the real estate owned by the church in 2007 after the death of the church's founder and pastor; (2) disenfranchised the existing members of the congregation; and (3) created by-laws to eradicate any future challenge to Ramirez's position as pastor. Congregation sought a judgment declaring the by-laws null and void, and alleged causes of action for fraud and negligent misrepresentation.

H.O.P.E. then moved to intervene in this action, arguing that plaintiff Congregation does not represent the church, rather, the subject church operates under the name "H.O.P.E.-L.I.F.E. Noah's Ark Church, Inc." This court granted the motion in an order dated July 12, 2012.[1]

H.O.P.E. now moves to dismiss the complaint as asserted against all defendants, arguing that (1) Congregation is a non-existent entity which has no standing to sue; (2) Congregation's claim brought, by implication, pursuant to New York Not-For-Profit Law §618 is barred by the applicable statute of limitations, and in any event, the service requirement of the statute was not met; and (3) this action infringes upon the First Amendment in that it seeks to have a religious issue resolved in a secular court.

In opposition, Congregation first argues that it has standing to sue, in that it is comprised of the original members of the church. It next argues that it did not bring any claim pursuant to New York Not-For-Profit Law ยง618, in that it did not seek to confirm or invalidate an election, rather, it sought a judgment declaring the church's by-laws null and void, as well as monetary damages. In addition, Congregation maintains that its claims do not require the court to resolve a religious dispute, in violation of the First Amendment, rather, Congregation is seeking ...


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