04/04/2012 01:55 pm ET

St. Paul Church Purchased By Controversial Mission, Displacing Community Arts Group

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A Chicago alderman and members of the Near Northwest Side arts community are speaking out after an alleged religious cult purchased the old church that artists have been using for meetings.

After several months of refusing to vacate the St. Paul Community Church in Wicker Park purchased by the Love Holy Trinity Blessed Mission last December, the Near Northwest Side Arts Council (NNWAC) has agreed to honor the many eviction notices doled out by the mission and vacate their former home by mid-April, according to Gapers Block.

But Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno, who has expressed opposition to the controversial religious group, says he will deny any requests from the mission for the special permit required to conduct meetings of more than a dozen people, NBC Chicago reports. The Love Holy Trinity Blessed Mission has long been the subject of criticism from local leaders, even Francis Cardinal George, who recalled one of his Archdiocesan priests to return from the mission after they came under fire for practices that included recruiting teenagers and cutting ties between members and their relatives.

"Does this work in this neighborhood as a bigger plan? I don't believe it does. So for a special use permit, you're not going to get one from me," Moreno said at a meeting about the transition.

The NNWAC is circulating a petition asking community members demand they be guaranteed continued access to the church that has housed their community arts and culture efforts since 2008.

(See footage from conversations about the mission above)