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-U.S Court of Appeals: Churches Can be Barred from Using Schools

by Dr. D ~ June 3rd, 2011

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The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 on Thursday that New York City can block religious groups from using school facilities for “religious worship services”.

The decision is the latest in a legal battle that dates back to 1995 when a Christian church -Bronx Household of Faith- sued the City of New York contending that the city violated the First Amendment by denying them access to a school while other community groups were allowed to use school facilities for activities.

Finally the church was successful in gaining access in 2002 after the United States Supreme Court ruled in a different case that it was unconstitutional to exclude a student Bible study group from using an upstate New York school building. In response to the decision a judge ruled that New York City had to provide religious groups with the same access as other community groups.

Now that ruling has been overturned more appeals are probably on the horizon. Jordan Lorence, a lawyer for the Bronx Household of Faith, indicated that they would be seeking a review of the decision by the full appeals court or ultimately by the U.S. Supreme Court:

“It’s very sad when government officials misinterpret the Constitution and attempt to kick such groups out. That is clearly not at all what the authors of the Constitution intended.”

There are currently more than 60 churches in NY City with permits using school facilities for their regular worship services.

Response: It is increasingly becoming difficult for churches to obtain permits to build church buildings in many cities. Most of the time it is a matter of tax revenue. Even finding facilities large enough to house worship services on Sundays is difficult in many areas.

In cities like New York where property and buildings are nearly prohibitive for smaller congregations, school facilities, which are not used over the weekends, present perfect alternatives for usage by neighborhood churches. The school districts also gain needed funds in the process through the rentals.

It is really hard to understand why a city would want to block churches from using the empty schools but that is the case in NY City. The city will actually help support and fund a new mosque near the 9/11 ‘Ground Zero’ site but block churches in need of facilities from using schools in the name of ‘separation of church and state’?

Tragically this ruling if it is allowed to stand could affect churches all across the country that are currently using school facilities to house their Sunday worship services.

Here in South OC California, most of the churches are currently meeting in schools or industrial warehouses since many cities here don’t want to approve church buildings which result in zero tax revenues, particularly in prime business areas. Churches in Southern California have even been blocked from building on their own property. On one occasion an offending city council actually used eminent domain to grab a church’s property for a new Costco.

Hopefully this decision is quickly overturned before churches all across America are kicked out of school facilities all in the name of the 1st Amendment which originally was supposed to provide for ‘Freedom of Religion’ rather than restrict it.            *Top

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4 Responses to -U.S Court of Appeals: Churches Can be Barred from Using Schools

  1. Brian

    A couple of follow-up thoughts in regard to the Bronx House of Faith situation:

    (a) By logical extension, if a city cannot rent facilities to a church, then it cannot sell facilities to a church. And, if it cannot sell land or a building, then how can it provide sanitation services, municipal water, police protection, or fire protection?

    (b) NYC schools already have Islamic prayer rooms, so that Muslim students can perform their daily prayers. Unlike the Bronx House of Faith, which rented facilities, these prayer rooms are provided at taxpayer expense.

    (c) Finally, the decision makes the argument that the schools cannot provide facilities to the Bronx House of Faith because it discriminates. The discrimination consists of prohibiting persons who are not baptized, and others such as Muslims, from “full participation” in its services. In other words, the church does not allow non-Christians to participate in communion or to join the church, so it is discriminating! This is the most frightening aspect of the decision, and one that has gone unrecognized by any commentator which I have read – I submit that Christians will, within 10 years, face a full-blown assault from the secular left, using anti-discrimination laws as their weapons, and that this decision is just the first, or one of the first, published judicial opinions to broach this topic.


  2. Dr. D

    Thank Brian for the additional details. This ruling could have is far worse implications for Christians in America if carried to its logical extreme. Great comment.

  3. -New York City: Mayor Will Allow Churches to Continue Using Schools | ANSWERS For The Faith

    […] We have been following this story for several years because of the national implications. Churches are renting schools for services all across America. […]

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