A federal appeals court upheld a ban on renting public school facilities to religious organizations for religious services.
In my opinion this ruling is clearly discriminatory.
The reason I say it is discriminatory is that it is aimed at one group of people only. The city evidently allows rental of their school facilities to other groups for their private purposes. This ruling singles out religious groups and applies a prohibition to them that is not applied to other groups of people.
From Catholic News Agency:
A federal appeals court has upheld a New York City policy prohibiting religious services in public school buildings, a decision critics said wrongly targets churches for exclusion.
Jordan Lorence, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, objected to the April 3 decision, saying that “the First Amendment prohibits New York City from singling out worship services and excluding them from empty school buildings.”
He noted that the buildings are “generally available to all individuals and community groups” for activity related to the community’s welfare. Groups that are religious should not be excluded.
Two of the three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overruled a lower court’s finding that the city’s education department’s policy wrongly restricted the free exercise of religion.
The two appellate judges said the policy seeks to avoid the risk of illegally endorsing a religion.
The dissenting judge noted that among the 50 largest school districts in the U.S., New York City is the only one to exclude religious worship from school facilities.
Small churches in poor neighborhoods have said they are particularly affected by the rule since they rely on the inexpensive space, The New York Times reports.
The Bronx Household of Faith, a small church that describes itself as “community-based,” filed a legal challenge to the rule.
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, backed the policy and contended that religious congregations were “dominating” public schools each Sunday.
She said that when a school is “converted to a church in this way” it sends “a powerful message” that the government favors that church.
However, critics say that renting out space to religious groups with the same rules and standards as non-religious groups is in full adherence with the Constitution.