NYC Continues Fight to Keep Churches from Meeting in Public Schools

Bronx Rally Credit ADFNEW YORK — The city of New York, namely the administration for Mayor Bill DeBlasio, is continuing the fight to keep churches from meeting in public schools in the city.

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 Board of Education argued that allowing churches to use school facilities and to advertise their services amounted to a violation of the Establishment Clause in the United States Constitution. The Bronx Household of Faith, represented by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), pointed to the fact that religious student groups already use school rooms after hours for Bible reading and prayer.

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 last 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 case was then again appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Earlier this month, attorneys for the city filed a brief with the court again arguing that the policy was reasonable and non-discriminatory.

“The department’s decision to make public schools available to religious organizations for a wide range of activities, but not for worship services or as a house of worship, is constitutional,” it read. “The policy does not prohibit, limit, or burden any religious practice; does not entangle the government in matters of religion; and does not impair petitioners’ ability to speak freely.”

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But some note that Mayor Bill DeBlasio had stated prior to his election that he supported the right for churches to meet in city schools.

“I stand by my belief that a faith organization playing by the same rules as any community non-profit deserves access,” he stated in April of last year, according to Christianity Today.

However, DeBlasio never moved to change the policy, and attorneys under DeBlasio’s administration filed their argument to uphold the current restrictions earlier this month.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is representing the churches, submitted their rebuttal against the city on Monday.

“Churches meeting in New York City public schools for worship services have fed the poor and needy, assisted in rehabilitating drug addicts and gang members, helped rebuild marriages and families, and provided for the disabled,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “The churches have also helped the public schools themselves by volunteering to paint the interiors of inner-city schools; donating computers, musical instruments, and air conditioners; and providing effective after-school programs to help all students with their studies.”

“We hope the Supreme Court will allow them to continue being a true benefit to the communities they love to serve,” he said.

The court will likely announce whether or not it will accept the case in late February or before the end of March.

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  • James Grimes

    ILLEGAL if other groups are allowed to use the facilities. BTW, the mayor is an Atheist.

    • Fundisi

      He is much worse than just an atheist, DeBlasio is an out and out godless Communist and aspiring dictator.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    America is becoming bad because of atheists. So sad. Atheists pay good with evil. Why are the Americans so submissive to the atheists whom they defeated once? Americans should sumbit to God or they will always end up submitting to the villains.

  • Fundisi

    There is NO such thing as Separation of Church and State in the United States Constitution; and, further, the endorsement clause requires the federal government to, by an act of Law, establish a National Church/Denomination. Short of that there is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits, at any level of government, such religious groups equal access of public facilities, as Christians are also tax paying citizens and have every right to use of such government buildings they pay to build.

    Let us face facts, DeBlasio and in fact most of New York State is anti-Christian, they are extreme Left Wing radicals and the people have stood by silently and by their votes, allowed the spirit of anti-Christ to take over their state. No wonder, it has long been another modern Sodom and Gomorrah, another cesspool of every evil known to man.

    • Mr. Avatar

      I agree with except that the founders did not want a state sponsored church, that is what they were running away from in Britain. You have that in China. Your history is flawed. If you have this there will be no freedom of religion at all.

      • Fundisi

        “the founders did not want a state sponsored church.” I agree, neither do I!

  • bowie1

    If it doesn’t work out for them perhaps they could arrange with existing churches to rent their facilities with services in the afternoon, for instance, so as not to conflict with their own meetings.

  • Tara

    The poor people/students who had been helped by these churchgoers. What will happen to them in the DeBlasio admins desire to get God out of there? I’m sure there must be back up plans in place, right? Pfffttt………………..

  • Because we have a representative Gov’t, there must be a way to address the situation at the root cause…Oust DeBlasio and elect someone more representative of the people. The issues is, it cannot wait until another election- Are there petitions the church members can create, a recall election instituted perhaps?

  • robertzaccour

    Here in Cookeville, TN The River Community Church has 3 morning services at their main campus on MIracle Rd and 2 at the Jere Whitson elementary school gymnasium. There’s also one called Refuge Church that meets in a movie theater room at the Highland Cinema. The one I attend meets at Peachtree Learning Center (an art center for children and middle school kids). I see no problem with holding meetings such as church in places like these, especially when it doesn’t interfere with government in any way. I say “why not”.

  • William Tyndale

    Given the fact NYC is arguably the most godless city in the US, this mayor is simply representing the views of a majority of his constituents; which makes forcing him to retreat from his obvious non-constitutional acts all that more problematic.

  • Mr. Avatar

    They have legislated the church out of the public with a twisted interpretation of the first amendment., until we take back the original meaning in the supreme court, this will not stop.

  • The Last Trump

    The real question to consider here is, WHY in the world would anyone, all of a sudden, even want to TRY TO PREVENT churches from meeting in public schools?
    What a depraved generation.
    “Thinking themselves to be wise, they became fools”. Romans 1:22

  • John Mark IB

    yes folks I tell ya it’s those horrible evil Jesus loving Christians once again you know?? can’t have them meting to worship Jesus after all, oh but you can believe me when I say ask them if you can build a mosque? and they’ll rush to embrace you with open muslim loving arms, ala the 911 area mosque, and the dhimmi dupes are anti Christians because they serve their god satan and satans little world is getting closer to his coming out party as mr. Anti Christ in the 7yr tribulation, but then again this is the USSA united socialist states of AmeriKa, and it’s also just plain old New York what more or less can we expect from the bleeding hearts uber libs?? give them hope and pass it on