In the first big victory for equal access in New York City this year, the NYC Housing Authority on Friday relented of its efforts to evict the churches meeting for worship services at the community centers of the public housing projects. Pastor Joe Fletcher of Bronx Bible Church, and Pastor Dimos Salaberrios of Infinity New York Church, received calls last Friday from NYC Housing Authority officials, who told the pastors that the City was willing to sign long term agreements so that the churches could continue conducting their worship services in the projects. At least five churches meet in the City's housing projects' community centers.
In December, after the Supreme Court denied review in the Bronx Household of Faith case, the Housing Authority sought to expand the ban on worship services from the NYC public schools to include the community centers at public housing projects. These facilities are open to all community groups and individuals to meet. This was an unwarranted expansion of a court decision. In the Bronx Household of Faith case, the appeals court did not give a comprehensive blank check to City officials to eradicate private religious worship services from every public forum in New York City.
astor Salaberrios, along with Councilman Fernando Cabrera, led the demonstration in lower Manhattan on Wednesday that resulted in several pastors and Councilman Cabrera being arrested for trespass as they sought to draw attention to the Housing Authority's efforts to adopt a policy like the Department of Education's banning worship services.
The Housing Authority made the right decision. These churches offer the people who live in the projects the hope of the Gospel and help for their daily needs. To drive out the churches based on a discredited, extreme notion of "separation of church and state" would not help the people in the projects or the City. We hope and pray that the City will also rescind its policy banning worship services in the public schools.
Be sure to join us for a prayer rally at Mayor Bloomberg’s State of the City speech Thursday, January 12 at noon at Morris High School in the Bronx
Working with ADF attorneys, Lorie Smith’s case currently awaits a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, after a lower court ruled against her earlier this year.