Court: NYC can ban church service in public school - FOX 35 News Orlando

Court: NYC can ban church service in public school

Posted: Updated:

By TOM HAYS | AP

NEW YORK (AP) — In the latest chapter of a long-running legal fight over separation of church and state, a federal appeals court again ruled on Thursday that New York City school officials can ban a small Christian congregation from holding weekend services in a grade school.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that a city Department of Education policy that prohibits church services in public schools is constitutional. The policy allows religious and other community organizations to use classrooms and other facilities for after-hours programs but denies access to those seeking to use the space as a "house of worship."

Two of the three judges on the panel agreed to reverse a 2012 lower court decision by U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska ordering the department not to enforce the rule against the Bronx Household of Faith. The appeals court disagreed with the judge's finding that denying the church access to the school would violate First Amendment protections regarding free exercise of faith.

"In the District Court's view, because Bronx Household and its congregants have a constitutional right to worship as they choose without interference from government and cannot afford to pay for a large enough site to accommodate the entire congregation, the Free Exercise Clause obligates the (department) to provide them with a subsidized facility in which to exercise the right," the majority wrote. "The Free Exercise Clause, however, has never been understood to require government to finance a subject's exercise of religion."

By refusing to host religious services, the department is correctly seeking to avoid the risk of violating the Establishment Clause, which prohibits government from endorsing a religion, the two judges added. The dissenting judge disagreed, in part by citing a survey finding that of the 50 largest school districts in the United States, New York City is the only one that excludes religious worship from its facilities.

"It is striking that none of these other school districts appear to have the slightest concern about violating the Establishment Clause, nor have any of their community use policies been found to violate the clause," the third judge wrote.

A lawyer for the Bronx Household of Faith, Jordan Lorence, said the church was considering an appeal to the entire circuit bench or to the Supreme Court.

"The First Amendment prohibits New York City from singling out worship services and excluding them from empty school buildings," Lorence said in a statement.

The lawyer added: "There is no subsidy of churches here. Churches and religious groups pay the same uniform rates that everyone else does to use the schools."

It was the second time that the appeals court had reversed the lower court judge in a case that's almost two decades old. Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that it was too early to assess the impact of the latest ruling.

The mayor, a Democrat, said he hadn't seen the decision but added that he stood by his beliefs "that a faith organization playing by the same rules as any other community nonprofit deserves access. ... But we'll assess the court decision and we'll go from there."

For now, the Bronx Household of Faith is planning to hold a service in the school on Sunday, its lawyer said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Bronx NewsBronx NewsMore>>

  • Mayor: NYC will learn from 2004 RNC 'mistakes'

    Mayor: NYC will learn from 2004 RNC 'mistakes'

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 6:35 AM EDT2014-08-27 10:35:46 GMT
    Brooklyn's final pitch to hold the 2016 Democratic national convention was centered on New York City's robust mass transit system -- and a pledge to learn "from the mistakes" from the last time the city hosted a presidential convention. The Republicans gathered in New York in 2004 to re-nominate President George W. Bush, choosing to meet in deep-blue Manhattan less than three years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
    Brooklyn's final pitch to hold the 2016 Democratic national convention was centered on New York City's robust mass transit system -- and a pledge to learn "from the mistakes" from the last time the city hosted a presidential convention. The Republicans gathered in New York in 2004 to re-nominate President George W. Bush, choosing to meet in deep-blue Manhattan less than three years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
  • Union says city too dangerous to host convention

    Union says city too dangerous to host convention

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 6:32 AM EDT2014-08-27 10:32:12 GMT
    One of New York City's police unions says it is opposed to the city's bid for Brooklyn to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention, saying that crime is on the rise and criticizing Mayor Bill de Blasio's public safety policies.The Sergeants Benevolent Association, which has 13,000 members, says the city was "lurching backwards to the bad old days of high crime."
    One of New York City's police unions says it is opposed to the city's bid for Brooklyn to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention, saying that crime is on the rise and criticizing Mayor Bill de Blasio's public safety policies.The Sergeants Benevolent Association, which has 13,000 members, says the city was "lurching backwards to the bad old days of high crime."
  • Fighting street harassment

    Fighting street harassment

    Tuesday, August 26 2014 6:37 PM EDT2014-08-26 22:37:24 GMT
    New York City women are tired of hearing vile things yelled at them as they walk down the street. Many women are going public about street harassment and catcalling. Some even post picture of their offenders on social media. Founded in 2005, Hollaback! is an anti-harassment organization giving women a platform to do just that.
    New York City women are tired of hearing vile things yelled at them as they walk down the street. Many women are going public about street harassment and catcalling. Some even post picture of their offenders on social media. Founded in 2005, Hollaback! is an anti-harassment organization giving women a platform to do just that.
Powered by WorldNow

35 Skyline Drive
Lake Mary, FL 32746

Phone: (407) 644-3535
News Tips: (866) 55-FOX35

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices