Churches in New York City could be forced to stop meeting in public school buildings depending on a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.
New York City’s policy is that the city’s public schools are open during non-school hours for use by community groups for the “welfare of the community.” Churches are allowed to meet in schools for Bible studies or other programs but cannot conduct worship services.
In 2002, the Bronx Household of Faith won a long court battle that allowed them to move their worship services to an abandoned school. That decision has allowed other churches to meet in schools, such as Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, which has had startup churches meet in school buildings.
It is estimated that 60 to 75 churches meet in city school buildings.
But then in 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit reversed the decision that had allowed churches and groups to use school buildings for meetings. The court said the city could enforce its own policy. Bronx Household of Faith, has appealed to the Supreme Court.
If the Supreme Court grants review, then the churches will be able to meet until the court hears arguments later this year. They will then make a decision a few months later.
If the Supreme Court dismisses the case, the city can begin enforcing its policy.
“Worship services function at the core of the life and community of many religious groups and are the foundation for their help and outreach,” said Jordan Lorence, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, the group representing Bronx Household of Faith.
“This is certainly true of Christian churches, which worship a crucified and risen Jesus Christ during their services and love others because he first loved us. Those worship services fuel mercy ministries in the forgotten street corners of New York City. Please pray that religious liberty will be upheld in this case, and that the Lord will not allow this door to be shut.”
Publication date: March 17, 2015