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-Supreme Court Allows Church Ban from NYC Schools to Stand

by Dr. D ~ December 6th, 2011

US Supreme Court building, front elevation, st...

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The US Supreme Court has Refused to hear the case and overturn an Appeals court decision that allows New York City to ban churches from renting public schools for religious worship services.

This means that over a dozen churches presently meeting in NYC schools will have to find a new place to hold their services by February 12th next year.

Here’s our earlier post with more details about this case:

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

Response: This case is shocking to say the least. This decision will have far reaching results that could affect churches all across the country. Thousands of Christian congregations are renting school facilities to hold worship services in from hundreds of different school districts in America. This could subject all of them to possible atheist or ACLU lawsuits.

The scary part of the original Appeals Court decision is that the church in the original case was deemed to be ‘discriminatory’ because only Christian believers could gain full participation, membership, or leadership positions in their organization. In the final results, so-called ‘discrimination‘ was used in this case to trump the First Amendment rights to  freedom of religion.

Recently we have seen Christian groups getting kicked off of college and university campuses for this same reason. Colleges are now claiming that Christian campus groups are ‘discriminatory’ because they require officers to affirm a belief in Christ and some doctrinal standards. This case and the case of Christian campus groups being suspended are an example of First Amendment rights being over turned by other higher PC civil ‘rights’ that are judged to be more important.

Is this the future we are seeing for the ‘freedom of religion’ in America? If our religious freedoms can be over-turned by judging the Christian faith and the normal polity of a Christian organization or a Church to be ‘discriminatory’ then our First Amendment rights and freedoms in America may be in jeopardy.  What do you think?           *Top

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5 Responses to -Supreme Court Allows Church Ban from NYC Schools to Stand

  1. Vincent P.Lacey

    The fact that the Supreme Court did not take up the case is not a danger to our basic rights under the Constitution. New York should not have allowed the schools to be used for churches in the first place.

    Political correctness is not only wrong but dishonest. Religious groups of any faith should be allowed to follow its teachings, so long as it does not endanger another person or the concepts of what America stands for. No college or judge can make the assumption that they can arbitrarily say, your teachings are discriminatory and you must go. That is what religious freedom and faith is, if an individual does not like their teachings, leave the religious group.
    Religion is about discrimination in the name of faith.

  2. Brian

    The minimum estimate that I have heard is that 60 churches will be evicted….I have heard other estimates that the number may be 250-350. All or substantially all will be Evangelical/Pentecostal/Charismatic.

    Due to the congregational organization of these entities, they lack the “deep” national resources of the Roman Catholics or even the mainstream Protestants to purchase expensive real estate in a major urban area like NYC, which is the reason that E/P/C congregations would tend to need to meet in rented schools. i am cynical enough to think that, if these had been mainstream Protestant or Catholic churches meeting in the schools, the city would not have taken action to evict anyone.

    A couple of predictions:

    (a) I think that there is a realistic danger that, within the next year or so, the city will take additional action against these churches. The action will be “unrelated” to the eviction of the schools from churches, but might involve (for example) new zoning laws to make it more difficult for a church to rent a storefront or a movie theater or similar facility; new parking permit rules that would hinder churches using rented facilities; or similar bureaucratic restrictions.

    (b) It would be interesting in a year or two to obtain a list of organizations renting school facilities in NYC. I suspect you would find “exceptions” being made. In a similar context, universities have allowed Islamic or other religious groups to meet, even while limiting or excluding Christian groups, on the basis that these were “ethnic” and not religious clubs. I would not be surprised to see NYC schools making similar distinctions. And, of course, I would not be surprised to see a local atheist organization meeting in an NYC school.

    (c) In a similar vein, another area of potential confrontation which has not occurred YET but which I anticipate involves signage. Most municipal areas have sign ordinances. If a city regulates signs outside churches, and allows religious messages to be placed on a sign, is that not a city endorsement of religion. Theories similar to those used against Bronx Household of Faith could be used to attack informational signs outside of churches.

    (d) Finally, many cities have special zoning exemptions that allow (for example) for church steeples to be higher than the maximum height allowed in the zone. Some cities even have special provisions exempting crosses, erected outside of Christian churches, from sign ordinances/zoning restrictions. These two areas may be vulnerable to attack using claims similar to those raised against Bronx Household.


  3. Dr. D

    Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.
    I agree with many things you said except that the inaction of the Scotus left the Appeals Court decision intact. That ruling included some unfortunate reasoning that ruled the churches to be ‘discriminatory’ in a harmful way to the community thus should not be allowed to rent school buildings and other organizations that are not deemed to be ‘discriminatory’ will be allowed to continue using school buildings.

    Secondly, churches and other organizations have been using schools on Saturday and Sunday for the entire history of the republic.. In this case the church paid a rental fee. Scotus in previous years has supported ‘equal access’ in schools which included use by religious organizations.

    Time will tell if this inaction is dangerous to our liberties however, I do believe that it does open the door to some potential problems all across the country.

    Here in So. Orange County, the vast majority of churches in our area are meeting in schools or warehouses. The ‘planned communities’ here only allowed spaces for a few major denominational churches. If churches are not allowed to rent school facilities then there will be a real problem. Where will they meet? Already some communities are trying to crack down on house churches and Bible studies. By default, freedom of religion could be curtailed by lack of buildings approved by the cities for worship.

    In NY City, property and rentals are extremely expensive. Renting school facilities allowed poor churches to meet. The Bronx church that was the subject of this lawsuit in the first place is a poor congregation. One result of this ruling is that only rich churches or already long time established congregations will be able to afford to meet in NYC in the future.

  4. Dr. D

    Astute and informative as usual. Anytime you would like to develop some of your thoughts into a full article I would be happy to publish it up as a guest post.

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