Bronx Household of Faith won a permanent injunction June 29 allowing private groups to conduct worship services in empty public schools during non-school hours. Judge Loretta Preska issued the order, ruling that New York City's ban on worship services in the public schools violates the church's rights under the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. This excellent decision rightly found that when the government uses religion as the factor that disqualifies a community group from using a school building, the government violates the unique protections the First Amendment grants to religious liberty.
New York City will likely appeal the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. It may be more challenging to convince the Second Circuit to agree with the District Court's ruling in favor of religious liberty, because the Second Circuit has ruled both for and against the policy in the past. The Second Circuit in February said that it would rule before school starts in early September. If the Second Circuit reverses and upholds the ban on worship services, Alliance Defending Freedom will likely appeal again to the U.S. Supreme Court.
This means that religious groups will continue to meet in NYC public schools on the same terms and conditions as other groups, at least for the remainder of the summer.
Please continue to pray that this ruling is upheld and support the Alliance Defending Freedom as we continue to fight.
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?