The Alliance Defense Fund has petitioned the Second Circuit to rehear the Bronx Household of Faith case en banc, which means that all eleven judges will decide whether to rehear the case. The Bronx Household of Faith case involves a challenge by the local Bronx church to a New York City school district policy that prohibits religious groups from meeting in public schools for worship services. New York City allows other community groups to meet during nonschool hours for their meetings for basically any purpose, yet singled out worship services for exclusion. However, churches and other religious groups have been meeting for worship services in the New York City public schools for nine years, after a federal district court court enjoined the worship exclusion policy in June 2002.
On June 2, the federal appeals court sitting in New York City, the Second Circuit, reversed the injunction that had been allowing the churches to meet and upheld the anti-worship service policy. If this opinion goes into effect, the school district could refuse to renew the contracts of religious groups that engage in the forbidden expression after their agreements with the school district expire at the end of June in a few weeks.
The filing of the petition for rehearing en banc halts that from happening, at least in the short term. All eleven judges on the Second Circuit must consider whether to rehear the case, to either uphold or reverse the three judges who upheld the worship exclusion policy. The eleven judges have no time deadline for considering the church's petition for rehearing.
Imagine if you had escaped government oppression in search of freedom and safety for your family in a new country—only to be greeted yet again with the government treading on Constitutional rights.
As pandemic restrictions have begun to ease over the last few months, churches and religious organizations have started to ask: If this happens again, how can we ensure that religious freedom is protected?