Virginia Attorney Wants Public Schools to Stop Renting to Churches

school hallway pdLEESBURG, Va. — An outspoken Virginia attorney says that he wants public schools to stop renting space to churches for worship services, as he believes that the arrangement is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Attorney John Flannery, a former federal prosecutor and congressional chief of staff, recently wrote on the blog “Loudon Progress” that he found it problematic that 34 out of 87 schools in Loudoun County allow churches to host services on the premises each Sunday.

“It’s time to declare that religious worship is an impermissible use of our public schools,” he said. “In Loudoun County, the churches that use public school space are holding ‘church services’ and collecting ‘donations.’ This use advances religious worship, and thus religion. The government is plainly entangled when it’s hosting religious worship not in one or two schools but in 40% of all the county’s public schools.”

Flannery opined that society is ripe for dialogue about the matter as it has not generally been a topic of discussion. He said that renting the space after hours when school is not in session does not rectify the situation.

“The gyms, cafeterias and libraries in our public schools have served as the nave and transept for various church denominations going back 12 years or more,” he stated. “We’ve had these religious services without a murmur of inquiry or dissent, and now suffer from an inertial indifference to question what’s become an unquestioned practice—‘don’t rock the boat]’—‘after all, the services are not during regular school hours’—‘the churches pay to lease the space you know’—even though the established practice appears wholly unconstitutional.”

“It’s past the time when we should have stopped this unconstitutional ‘establishment’ of religious worship in our public schools,” Flannery said.

But Loudoun school board member Bill Fox told reporters last week that he sees nothing wrong with renting to churches on Sundays and the community at large doesn’t either.

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“We’ve never had any complaint at all about this,” he said. “We rent out to numerous different community groups and non-profit organizations, including churches, and a variety of churches.”

Fox said that Flannery is known for taking aim at religion.

“[He] really won’t be satisfied until we’ve completely excised religion from the public sphere,” he stated. “Some folks just believe that the First Amendment stands for the proposition that we should free from religion, instead of having freedom of religion. I’ve been an advocate for the First Amendment my entire life, and that’s not the First Amendment [interpretation] that I’ve studied and that I advocate for.”

As previously reported, the case of Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York has been circling through the court system for the past 17 years. It began in 1995, when Bronx Household of Faith submitted an application to rent a public school building for its worship services, but was denied by the Board of Education. The matter then went to court, which turned into an emotional roller coaster, resulting in both temporary victories and losses to both sides.

The case went all the way up to the United Supreme Court, which declined to hear the matter. In 2012, however, U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Presha issued a permanent injunction, allowing the Bronx Household of Faith to continue to hold services in local public school buildings indefinitely. She stated that denial of the use of the building equated to an infringement of the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

But the ruling was again appealed, and this past April, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the Board of Education’s regulation barring churches from meeting in schools while allowing secular activities doesn’t violate the Constitution. The matter is again on appeal as it continues to circulate through the court system.

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  • Gary

    The same kind of people as this attorney tell us that when people who object to homosexuals are required to do business with them there is no endorsement of homosexuality involved on the part of the business. If that is true, then how could renting a building to a religious group mean that the school is endorsing the religion of the tenant?

    • Peter Leh

      now gary.. don;t start making sense that refutes your own argument. 🙂

    • KellyLynne

      Because nothing shows the love of Christ like telling someone they’re not welcome in your business because you don’t approve of their relationships, or their existence.

  • James Grimes

    Equal access? The schools have to allow churches if they allow for the rental of the school property. Why is Attorney John Flannery so angry and miserable?

    • Peter Leh


  • Neiman

    It is the old lie of Separation of Church and state that Justice Black invented out of whole cloth in 1948. The 1st Amendment was to keep the state out of religion, not religion out of the state. To James – they are angry because they know in their hearts they must face God and they are afraid.

    • James Grimes

      Neiman, I have been active in the local community for years, and I see many attorneys in action. Many, but not all, of them are arrogant and want what they want. One told me a year ago that he knows better for the community than the residents. So, a story such as this does not surprise me.

      • Neiman

        The words of Gruber recently about people being stupid regarding Obamacare were what almost all political and community leaders believe in their hearts. They believe the people are ignorant peasants and the ruling elite know what is best for them, even if they don’t; and like parents, they must lie and keep them in ignorance and do what is good for the people whether they like it or or not. That is the wicked spirit in all man made governments, the ruling elite always feel anointed to force the people to do what is best for them. The great experiment of a nation “of, by and for the people” has failed, we are ruled by politically elite parents. Remember people fainting and calling Obama their father?

        Who is to blame? The people, too lazy to be educated on what is happening, they have like sheep allowed this nation to be run by political royalty and like a nation with a king or queen, they look to them like their parents.

  • Peter Leh

    The dialogue is this: All or nothing. The government building can be used by a religious third parties as long as it is available to all religions OR the building can not be rented by anyone.

    This attorney is just looking for funding for a losing cause.

  • bowie1

    Are they willing to give up this revenue stream or do they expect the taxpayers (including atheists and attorneys) to pick up the slack? Maybe they can soak that attorney for this one since he is the one that wants them to stop!

    • Peter Leh

      good point. this is $$ for the district

    • TheBBP

      He does not care who he would be hurting with this. It is a personal agenda.

  • Vito Zabala Halasan

    the hidden agenda here is all about MONEY…

  • John Buchanan

    Forgetting Christianity for a moment, as a taxpayer I am subsidizing this school, and any income from church services, events, weddings, musicals, etc..helps offset cost . What does it matter what it is being used for on a weekend ? It

  • JC

    If that’s how he thinks the Constitution is being violated then perhaps he shouldn’t be a judge as it’s obvious he does not know how to interpret the law!

  • Roodog

    Next they will say that Public Utilities(water, sewage, etc.) connected to the Church will be unconstitutional

    • they will get to that soon enough ….

  • jcrosby35

    Stop, because he believes? No way. Never stop preaching and teach Jesus. In schools, churches or where ever the occasion is given. If the attorney wants to push it then let then church stand firm and push back according to the law. Time for Christians to take a stand

    • EvidenceBasedDecisions

      As long as such preaching is private – and not forced upon people.

      If the school space is rented, and used by private citizens, I dont see a problem.
      If the school space is used to preach to children attending as students, that would be a violation.

  • Some people have entirely too much time on their hands.

  • Haqodeshim

    The Founders counted on the US Constitution to “restrain” Governmental powers, but that is harder since the advent of the American Progressive in the 20th century.

    Progressives and the Politically Correct are not without some education, but it’s the perspective that “I have a degree and now know BETTER than you” – it’s an arrogance, there is no humbleness that in acquiring more education, they now realize just how IGNORANT they are, and so there is no humility, no Socratic moment of realizing that for all your wisdom and what you know your IGNORANCE is vastly greater.

    No, in their minds they have ARRIVED! Whereas for Christians following in the steps of Christ, we know we NEVER arrive in this lifetime, that we are always growing and learning in our relationship with our omniscient and infinite God.
    Progressives have to blaspheme our History of Religion in this country and make it a boogie man and try to convince you that thousands of Christian Denominations who cannot agree upon mutual “Articles of Faith” let alone a single dominating Hermeneutic of the Bible, can somehow form a majority to form a Christian Theocracy to overthrow the Republic. It’s the RED HERRING the Progressives throw out in the Media EVERY ELECTION CYCLE.

    Meanwhile, Progressives don’t mind dumbing down the education to the point where the majority of Americans don’t even realize it was the National Sunday School Movement of the 18th and 19th centuries that founded the public education system that the Federal Government then stepped in and took over - – in fact they’ll threaten you with expulsion in many Progressive Districts if a student even dares to put God into a diagram or essay for their class.

    Also, they don’t want you looking behind the curtain to see that Progressives think we need to progress past the US Constitution because it’s too old, tend to like to call it a “living, breathing document” so they can get past what is not lawful in it, in Universities they don’t have law students study the US Constitution, instead they have them study “case law” which many times violates the US Constitution (, and always call our Government a “Democracy” instead of “a Republic” because they know the founding Father’s despised “Democracies.”

    The Progressive movement of the early 20th century culminated in Progressive plans like those hatched by Cloward and Piven in the 1960’s to infiltrate the Government system( and destroy the Republic from within by overburdening it with debt and deficit spending until the Government programs cause the Capitalist system to collapse in on itself so they can PROGRESS PAST the Republic – and on to better things!

    Basically if the Tea Party doesn’t wake up the general populous, and take power away from the 50% of the 1% in DC in the next 5 to 10 years (, we are going to see the downfall of our Republic same as happened to the Romans, and we are already more than half way there.

  • Anton Viljoen

    Attorney John Flannery ……….. just another one of satans pawns …. they are like snakes … down below in the dark undergrowth and pits !!!!!

  • penny0314

    Bravo for Attorney Flannery! While I personally don’t have a problem with renting to religious groups on Sundays or when the school is not in use (and I include groups of ALL faiths, including Satanism, Islam, Buddhism and others), with the radical and dangerous attempts to establish a Christian Theocracy in this nation and attemps aimed at removal of the first amendment, which have been horrific, these things bear examining! Remember, this country was founded by wise men who saw the importance of establishing this country as a SECULAR country. A study of the men and their writings makes this abundantly clear!

  • It was not an issue for presidents Madison and Jefferson when they attended church services in a public government building during their time in Office ….