The GreekAmerican - February 5, 1999

Both Sides Claim Victory in Legal Dispute




The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America last Friday dropped its lawsuit aimed at retrieving its mailing list from a dissident organization and settled for restrictions that a federal judge had placed earlier on the use of the list by that group.

Lawyers for the Archdiocese asked judge Denny Chin, of U.S. District Court, Southern District, to settle the case based on a preliminary decision he had made in November that permitted the dissident group, Greek Orthodox American Leaders (GOAL), to use the mailing as long as it abided by the laws governing not-forprofit organizations in New York State. Those laws prohibit the commercial use, sale, and public disclosure of the list. In legal terms, the Archdiocese's request is referred to as a summary judgment, which was approved and which overrode the original request for the list's return.

Both sides claimed victory after the settlement. GOAL said it won because it gets to keep the list. The Archdiocese, on the other hand, said it won because the decision protects, at least partially, the privacy of Church members.

"We applied to the court to end this case, the court agreed," said John Mavroudis, a lawyer for the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese first filed the lawsuit on September 11 to retrieve the mailing list, which has some 130,000 names and addresses of Church members.

Mr. Mavroudis suggested that the matter was one of principle and one of privacy. The Church wanted to retrieve its property and to protect the privacy of its members. The Archdiocese was concerned about GOAL's use of the list to disseminate material that is critical of Church administration and about the possibility that the list would be sold. Judge Chin's ruling permits GOAL to use the mailing list but forbids its sale.

The victory is "that we made every effort to protect the property of the Church and the privacy of the faithful," said Fr. Mark Arey, spokesman for the Archdiocese. Though the case's outcome did not return the list to the Church, Fr. Arey said, getting "partial protection was worth it."

Judge Chin decided on November 24 that GOAL could use the list to contact members of the Archdiocese and voice its discontent. But the judge ruled that the law forbids GOAL from using the list to solicit funds or to disclose the list to anyone outside of the GOAL organization. That decision had come in response to a motion the Archdiocese had filed to temporarily prevent GOAL from using the list until a final ruling was made in the case.

Dean Popps, a spokesman for GOAL, said his organization wanted the list "because we wanted to communicate to the faithful, we have a story to tell." The dissident group is opposed to the administration of the Archdiocese by Archbishop Spyridon. GOAL advocates that the primate be removed from his post.

[ The GreekAmerican - February 5, 1999 - p. 3 ]