Victory: New York City Churches Can Meet in Public Schools

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
A long battle between the city of New York and religious groups has come to an end. Today, the Alliance Defense Fund won a permanent injunction, one that permits churches and other religious groups to continue meeting in New York City public school buildings for worship services after school hours.

NYC Public Schools

More than 60 churches and groups have been meeting in the city’s public schools for years, but the Board of Education and the Bloomberg administration specifically has sought to have them removed. WordJourney began tracking this story in January 2012, one month after the school board issued a February deadline for the churches to leave, including some that are located in poor communities throughout the city’s five boroughs.

praise reportThe ADF, acting on behalf of one church — The Bronx Household of Faith — later extended its defense to the remaining groups. Through the intervening months, the court battle continued and legislation was introduced to the state house in a bid to overrule the Department of Education. That bill stalled in Albany while legal action continued.

Helping Local Communities

“Churches that have been helping communities for years can continue to offer the hope that empty buildings can’t,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence, who argued before the court on June 1. “The court’s order allows churches and other religious groups to meet for worship services in empty school buildings on weekends on the same terms as other groups. ADF will continue to defend this constitutionally protected right if the city chooses to continue using taxpayer money to evict the very groups that are selflessly helping the city’s communities, including the public schools themselves.”

Besides proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, the affected churches have been putting feet to their faith, making an important difference in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. These churches have benefited the community by feeding the poor; rehabilitating gang members and drug addicts; offering family and marriage counseling; and assisting the disabled.

Legal Precedence Avoided

The permanent injunction replaces the temporary injunction issued in February by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. It also brings to an end a 17-year legal battle known in legal circles as Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York. The city argued that holding worship services in public school meeting places violated the U.S. Constitution (separation of church and state), but the court disagreed with that contention today.

The legal victory today also stops an important negative legal precedence from being set, one that might have given cities across America grounds to take action against churches that legally meet in public buildings. Thus far, among America’s largest cities only New York has pushed to remove religious groups from public schools, what typically are neighborhood churches that meet only on Sundays when school is not in session.

See Also — Copy of the court injunction: http://www.adfmedia.org/files/BronxPermanentInjunction.pdf

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