Church's Suit Continues
More Hearings Expected in Dispute over Protesters
By Carol DeMare
Albany Times Union
January 24, 2006
ALBANY -- Although a decision was issued last week restricting attorney John Aretakis and others who are protesting outside a Catholic church, the case is not over.
More hearings are expected in the near future in the lawsuit brought by Holy Cross Church in an attempt to curtail demonstrators who have shown up during Sunday services since May.
In an interim ruling Friday, state Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. Spargo extended a temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction.
The injunction continues to keep protesters 100 feet away from church entrances. It will remain in effect until the lawsuit is concluded and a final order is issued.
Singling out Aretakis, the judge described him as an adviser to the group and called his conduct "aggressive and hostile." Spargo ordered the attorney to stay 300 feet from the church and school during services and classes.
The church is at Western Avenue and Rosemont Street. Since a restraining order took effect in September, protesters have moved across Western Avenue.
Aretakis complained Friday that he and Mark Lyman, co-chairman of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, didn't get to call witnesses at a hearing, held on and off, starting in September.
He said the church called 14 people, mostly parishioners, who testified they were troubled by the demonstration.
The protesters want Holy Cross pastor, the Rev. Daniel J. Maher, removed. They allege he molested an altar boy in 1973. An investigation by the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese cleared the priest.
On Monday, the attorney said Lyman and his family will testify as will other protesters when the hearing resumes. Lyman's wife will tell of the day a neighbor turned a garden hose on the protesters after they moved across the street, Aretakis said.
He said he subpoenaed three police officers "who have always observed the protesters acting peaceful, lawful and respectful."
Any incidents were initiated by angry parishioners and not protesters, he said.
He said the "case involves the rights of victims to speak out about abuse ... It is not about me, although the church continues to try to make it about me."
Aretakis has asked an appellate court to remove Spargo from the case, claiming the judge is biased in favor of the church.
During the first set of hearings, parishioners testified they felt intimidated by Aretakis and the others. They said protesters could be seen from inside the church and it was disruptive.
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