NYC Churches Still Battling to Meet In Public School Buildings

NORMAN Y. LONO/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Parishioners at Abounding Grace Ministries giving their all in prayer.
NORMAN Y. LONO/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Parishioners at Abounding Grace Ministries giving their all in prayer.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court Monday that answers New York City’s arguments against high court scrutiny of its 20-year-old quest to ban worship services in empty public school buildings. In September of last year, ADF asked the high court to review a 2-1 ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit that upheld a city policy prohibiting worship services in public school buildings during non-school hours. The panel’s ruling is on hold until the Supreme Court decides whether to take the case.

“In New York City, any community group can meet in vacant school buildings for any purpose except for religious groups meeting to worship God. The city’s arguments in defense of this policy cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “Evicting churches and the help they offer the people in their communities through their worship services in otherwise empty buildings on weekends helps no one. Violating the First Amendment, as New York City is doing, hurts everyone. For that reason, we hope the U.S. Supreme Court will agree to hear this important case.”

The panel’s ruling in Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York said that the city can single out for exclusion what it defines as “religious worship services.” The New York City Department of Education has defended this policy, known as Regulation I.Q., in court on and off since 1995 even though the department allows other community groups to rent space for their meetings.

“The Department did not need to open its facilities for after-hours nongovernmental uses, but it did. Now it must abide by constitutional rules forbidding express discrimination against religious expression and practices in otherwise permissible uses,” the ADF reply brief explains.

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SOURCE: Alliance Defending Freedom