Court Declines Church Access Case
Special Report - December 6, 2011
On Monday, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York, a case involving a 16-year legal battle over the New York City (NYC) Board of Education’s policy of prohibiting churches and other religious groups from having equal access to public school buildings. The case centered around Section 5.11 of the “Extended Use of School Buildings” section of the NYC Board of Education’s Standard Operating Procedures Manual, which states: “No outside organization or group may be allowed to conduct religious services or religious instruction on school premises after school.” The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal in the case means that the NYC Board of Education can continue its policy of preventing religious groups and churches from using public school facilities for meetings, while allowing other groups to do so.
The case first began in 1994, when the Bronx Household of Faith requested to use public school facilities to hold weekend church services. The request was repeatedly denied by the NYC Department of Education until 2002, when a federal district court issued an injunction and prohibited the Board from preventing churches from using public school facilities. After NYC Department of Education officials appealed the injunction, the case made its way through a series of legal challenges.
Recently, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals threw out the injunction issued by the district court in 2002. According to a press release from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), the ruling gave the NYC Board of Education the right to “single out religious services for exclusion when deciding what kinds of activities may or may not take place in otherwise empty school facilities during the weekend.” After a full panel of judges for the U.S Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit declined to review the three-judge panel’s earlier decision, ADF filed a petition in September to request that the Supreme Court hear the case.
“Churches and other religious groups should be able to meet in public buildings on the same terms as other community groups. They should not be excluded simply because of the religious nature of their speech,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence in a statement. , “The Supreme Court’s decision not to review this case is befuddling because it has already ruled multiple times in other equal access cases that the First Amendment protects religious worship the same as secular speech. ADF will continue to stand for this constitutional principle.”
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Americans Support Religious Freedom - January 17, 2008
High Court Declines Religious Freedom Cases - October 8, 2007
Religious Freedom in Our Public Schools - FNC - Fall 2006
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