The Case Goes On

From AP:

TOM HAYS
Published: YesterdayNEW YORK (AP) – Churches won back the right to hold services in the city’s public schools when a federal judge issued an injunction Friday against its no-worship policy.

The city said it would immediately appeal, guaranteeing that a case that has gone back and forth for 17 years will continue.

District Judge Loretta Preska ruled in Manhattan that a tiny evangelical Christian church, the Bronx Household of Faith, has a good chance of ultimately winning its lawsuit claiming the policy violates freedom of religion.

City lawyers had argued that the church’s use of a public grade school ran afoul of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, the prohibition against governmental endorsement of religion.

But the judge said, “In this court’s view, losing one’s right to exercise freely and fully his or her religious beliefs is a greater threat to our democratic society than a misperceived violation of the Establishment Clause.”

A Bronx Household lawyer, Jordon Lorence, said the church welcomed the latest decision.

“The city can’t single out religious expression and treat it worse than the expression of everybody else,” Lorence said in a statement. “The court’s order allows churches and other religious groups to meet in empty school buildings on weekends just as non-religious groups do while the lawsuit proceeds.”

The judge had issued a similar temporary injunction last week, but the city appealed and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals narrowed it to cover only the Bronx Household of Faith, not the 50 or so other congregations that were worshipping in city schools until this month.

The city had begun revoking the churches’ permits after an earlier 2nd Circuit decision upheld the no-worship policy and the U.S. Supreme Court decided against hearing the case.

As the appeals and injunctions continued, churches had to scramble for permits to worship in schools, then try to find space elsewhere.

City lawyer Jane Gordon promised another appeal, saying Friday’s injunction was “inconsistent with the recent Second Circuit order and that court’s prior decision on the case’s merits.”

The city said it would consider pending applications from churches for school space this weekend.

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Andy Holt

    It’s really hard for me to see the merit in this case, or how this would benefit the city. I looked into renting school space for my church plant here in Ohio and it was roughly $500 per week. That’s an additional $26,000 going into the school system each year, just from one church. It’s essentially free money for the schools. I know we Christians can have a persecution complex sometimes, but this seems awfully narrow-minded, short-sighted, and blatantly prejudiced on the part of the city.

  • Shannon

    …the judge said, “In this court’s view, losing one’s right to exercise freely and fully his or her religious beliefs is a greater threat to our democratic society than a misperceived violation of the Establishment Clause.”

    Beautifully put.
    And the people said, “Amen”

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Do you all feel the same about a congregation going in every Sunday and practicing witchcraft and other occult rituals?

  • SWNID

    What’s still amazing to me is that there are school officials in New York who consider it worth their time to exclude churches from renting and not worth the income and community partnerships that they get when churches do rent.

  • LexCro

    @ DRT: Has an occultic “congregation” or a Wiccan coven had their rights violated in this way? Sure, if the churches win this, then that will open up the door for them as well (and Mormons and Buddhists and random UFO-cultists and so on and so forth…). But if these entities have been wanting to get their spirituality/religion on in the schools, they’ve had their shot. Perhaps their absence speaks to the fact that they lack representation in these communities. Speaking as an Afro-American who grew up in and has ministered in urban/inner-city areas, Wicca isn’t exactly a crowd favorite…

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    A bit more.

    I am increasingly sympathetic to keeping religion outside of the public sphere in public funded institutions. We have to watch out what we wish for, we may come to regret it.

    I can see a banner in front of the school advertising that children should come and experience witchcraft. Then the witches set up tables in the lobby and outside with all of their…whatever they have.

    I am acquainted with a witch (or warlock?) here in Virginia that has performed quite a few marriages, legally. He would be happy to set up in your school.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    LexCro, well, yes, I don’t think Wicca is packing them in, but Islam is.

    The point I want to make is that I am feeling that we have to be comfortable with someone we do not agree with before we make a judgment on someone we with whom we do.

    I am becoming more and more uncomfortable with the ingroup behaviors in Christianity…would the same decisions be made if Christians were a minority? I believe that is how the decision should be made.

  • LexCro

    @ DRT: Your comfort level with Christian in-group behaviors aside, at issue is the legal basis for which these churches were ousted for their contractual usage of the school facilities. As far as I know, their behavior did not spark this. In fact, it seems like at least some (if not all) of these churches play a vital role in their communities–even apart from their overtly religious activities. The basis for this was faulty and discriminatory. You ask “…Would the same decisions be made if Christians were a minority?” But isn’t the fact that the schools were ruled against to begin with proof enough that majority/minority status isn’t in this mix here?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    LexCro#8, I admit that I may not be reading it at that level. My startup church got kicked out of the local school several years ago (Virginia) and have come to grips with the reality that it may be best to not have the schools politicized, and, unfortunately, religion politicizes (how ironic, or is it?).

  • Shannon

    Regarding DRT,
    “Though seeing, they do not see,
    though hearing they do not hear or understand.

    In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah…’

    Matthew 13:13,14


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