Former gay/aids state senator Tom Duane Explains the real reason why liberals didn't want religious services "She's (Jessica Lappin former Upper East Side City Council woman) not afraid to stand in the minority - even when it means standing up to a powerful group of evangelical churches to keep our public schools from being used for regular worship services, where homophobia finds it's way in to sermons"
New York City Can Block Religious Services in Public Schools, Appeals Court Says
A federal appeals panel ruled on Thursday that New York City can bar religious groups from holding services in school buildings, reversing a lower-court decision.
The latest ruling, coming in a tortured legal battle that has lasted almost two decades, was seen as significant because it addressed a further challenge in which a church claimed that the city’s policy violated its religious liberty rights.
The decision does not mean that the city must force religious groups out of the schools, but merely that a city prohibition on religious worship services in schools would comply with the Constitution.
The impact of the decision was not immediately clear; Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly said that he supports the right of religious organizations to hold worship services in public schools, in contrast with the policy of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. On Thursday, Mr. de Blasio affirmed his stance, saying the groups should have access to the schools.
“I stand by my belief that a faith organization playing by the same rules as any community nonprofit deserves access,” he said. “You know, they have to go through the same application process, wait their turn for space, pay the same rent. But I think they deserve access. They play a very, very important role in terms of providing social services and other important community services, and I think they deserve that right.”
“But we’ll assess the court decision and we’ll look from there,” he added.
The ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit — reversing Judge Loretta A. Preska of Federal District Court in Manhattan — comes almost three years after it held that the city’s ban on worship in public schools did not violate the First Amendment right to free expression.
Judge Pierre N. Leval, writing for a 2-to-1 majority of the panel, said the city’s ban was “consistent with its constitutional duties,” and that it did not violate the right to free exercise of religion. And the judge wrote that the lower court erred in concluding that the policy compelled the city “to make decisions that constitute excessive entanglement with religion.”
The Rev. Robert G. Hall, co-pastor of the Bronx Household of Faith, the church that first sued to challenge the city policy, said its members were “saddened” by the latest ruling.
Jordan W. Lorence, the church’s lawyer, said his client would appeal.
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the city’s position in the case, called the ruling “a victory for religious freedom.” Ms. Lieberman said the case was about a group of “religious congregations that were dominating public schools across New York City Sunday after Sunday, year after year.”
“When a school is converted to a church in this way,” she added, “it sends a powerful message to students and the community at large that the government favors that particular church." are kids there on weekends?
A city court filing in September 2012 said that in the 2010-11 academic year, about 100 permit applicants sought to hold worship services in the schools, and about 80 of them were regularly holding services.
Judge Leval was joined in his appellate decision by Judge Guido Calabresi. A dissent was filed by Judge John M. Walker Jr., who said the case presented substantial questions that were “ripe for Supreme Court review.”Some of the churches have drawn large crowds of worshipers into the schools. The New Frontier Presbyterian Church has been holding worship services at Public School 11 in Chelsea where, on an average Sunday now, about 800 people attend, said Inhyun Ryu, the senior pastor.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” he said of the appeals court’s ruling. “Anyone can come to public space, regardless of any religion, so I don’t understand.”
Some churches that meet in the schools say they rely on the inexpensive space to help their congregations function, particularly when those churches are small and located in poor neighborhoods, like the Bronx Household of Faith, which had been holding worship services for its roughly 100 congregants at Public School 15 in University Heights since 2002.
The legal dispute has gone on so long that in the intervening years, Bronx Household of Faith has been able to build its own church across the street from the school, and plans to move in late this month, Mr. Hall said.
Even so, the church will continue to fight the legal case, he added, because it still plans to use the school building on some occasions, and because the issue has grown far larger than just his church.
“I don’t know what the mayor is going to do,” he said. “He was in support of us in 2012, but it remains to be seen whether he is going to follow through on that. We hope he does.”
(New York Times) highlights my additions