NEW YORK — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a petition with the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit Thursday in an effort to ensure that churches and other religious groups can continue to meet at New York City public schools.
On June 2, a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit threw out an injunction that has protected churches for nine years. The panel ruled 2-1 that New York City public schools can single out worship services for exclusion when deciding who can rent school facilities for weekend meetings--a decision that runs contrary to established U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Some orthodox Jewish congregations also rent schools in the city for meetings on certain Jewish holidays and are also affected by the ruling.
“Religious groups, including churches, shouldn’t be discriminated against simply because they want to rent public buildings for worship services on the same terms as other groups conducting similar types of meetings,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “We are asking the full 2nd Circuit to hear this case because the U.S. Supreme Court has already definitively ruled that the government must allow religious groups to have the same access that other groups have. Filing our petition should also stop the June 2 opinion from going into effect and allow churches and other religious groups to sign agreements with the schools so that they can continue meeting while this case is on appeal.”
ADF attorneys represent Bronx Household of Faith in its lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education, which has spent 16 years fighting to keep the church from renting space for religious services at one of its schools even though it allows all other community groups to rent space for their meetings.
Once all appeals are exhausted, the outcome of the case, Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York, could have wide-ranging ramifications for churches throughout the nation that wish to meet in public schools on the same terms and conditions as other community groups.
The New York City Department of Education consistently rejected Bronx Household’s request to rent a school building for weekend services until a federal district court issued an injunction in 2002 prohibiting the department from keeping the church out. Department officials appealed, repeating their claim that allowing churches to rent school buildings would be unconstitutional--even though the Supreme Court has ruled otherwise.
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.