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Minister sues Christian bookstore

May 27, 2009

A Northwestern Indiana minister has filed a lawsuit against a Christian bookstore claiming racial discrimination when he was told to leave the store and that he would be arrested if he ever returned.

Minister Alvin Murphy, an African-American, and his godson, James Green, went to the Family Christian Stores in Merrillville with the intent to shop for books and a crucifix. This was the first time Green had visited the store, but Murphy was a regular and had shopped there for nearly 14 years. Murphy is also a member of the store's perks programs for pastors and families, according to the complaint.

Julie McNutt, an assistant manager at the store, had called the shopping plaza's security because she suspected another African-American in the store of stealing. Security called Hobart Police to respond to McNutt's call.

According to the complaint, McNutt assumed Murphy and Green were associated with the man suspected of stealing and had Hobart Police escort them out of the store. Murphy told police he intended to purchase the items he was carrying.

The Hobart police officer told Murphy that McNutt had called police and requested they issue a citation to Murphy and Green to never return to the store and that if they did, they would be arrested for trespassing.

In his suit filed May 22 in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division, Alvin Murphy v. Family Christian Stores, Inc., et al., No. 2:09-CV-146, Murphy is suing for violations of 42 U.S.C. Sections 1981, 1982 and for intentional infliction of emotional distress. He believes he was the victim of racial profiling.

According to a press release issued by Murphy's attorney, Trent A. McCain, Murphy originally filed a charge against the bookstore with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission, which found probable cause that Murphy and his godson's rights were violated by the store. The results of that finding led to the federal lawsuit.

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