Church Meetings Cannot Be Held In Public Schools
December 9, 2011 Leave a comment
In yet another sign of the times. The Wall Street Journal reports:
The United States Supreme Court has declined to hear a case over whether a church can hold religious services in public school facilities, ending a 16-year legal battle about the rights churches have in public schools in the city.
The decision means about 60 churches have less than a month to find new spaces for their congregations, according to a previous agreement between the Department of Education and the churches, lawyers for the church said.
Lawyers for the Bronx Household of Faith, an evangelical congregation that meets at P.S. 15 in the Bronx, had filed a petition in late September hoping to get an earlier court ruling overturned.
Churches who use the school spaces pay nominal fees for security and custodial staff. The policy has saved fledgling churches from having to pay market-rate rents for worship space in meeting centers or hotels. While the court’s decision was pending, churches had continued meeting in public schools.
In June, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that allowing church services in schools violates the principle of the separation of church and state. A Supreme Court case in 2001, Good News Club vs. Milford Central School, ruled that a school could not deny a Bible study group access to school facilities. But the Bronx case applied specifically to religious worship services, allowing the appeals court to rule in favor of the Department of Education.
Jordan Lorence, a lawyer for the church, said he was surprised that the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
“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,” he said.
New York City school officials have not yet responded to calls for comment…