Judge Allows Church Meetings in School
Special Report - February 17, 2012
A district court judge in New York has temporarily halted a New York City Board of Education regulation that prohibits churches “from conducting their religious worship services in the [city’s public] schools.” United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York Loretta Preska granted a preliminary injunction in the case Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York on February 16, so the district court can consider the constitutional arguments in the case. In her order, Judge Preska stated that the Bronx Household of Faith “demonstrated irreparable harm and a likelihood of success on the merits of their Free Exercise Clause and Establishment Clause claims,” should the regulation be enforced. Therefore, her injunction against enforcement of the regulation “shall take effect immediately and remain in effect for ten days.”
According to a press release from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which is representing Bronx Household of Faith in its lawsuit, the policy represents a “unique-in-the-nation prohibition on worship services in vacant public school buildings on weekends.” ADF sought the injunction “to stop the evictions based on violations of the First Amendment that had not been ruled on previously in the case.”
“Churches help communities; evicting churches hurts communities. Empty buildings offer nothing to communities that need hope,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence, who argued before the court. “The court’s order is a message of hope for fundamental freedoms in New York City because it means that, for the time being, the city must welcome churches as it does other groups. ADF will continue to fight this battle relentlessly until the city no longer unconstitutionally prohibits activity for purely religious reasons.”
The U.S. Supreme Court declined on December 5, 2011 to hear an appeal of the case after a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled against the church last summer. However, on February 6, the New York State Senate passed a bill that “authorize[s] the use of school buildings and school sites for religious meetings and worship when not in use for school purposes.” Specifically, S6087 “prohibits the adoption of restrictions to exclude or limit speech, during non-school hours, including speech that expresses religious conduct or viewpoints.” The bill is awaiting consideration by the New York State Assembly.
Court Declines Church Access Case - December 6, 2011
Prepare for “Religious Freedom Day” - January 13, 2009
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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