NEW YORK — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys have won a court order that allows churches to continue meeting for worship services in New York City public schools for the time being.
The temporary restraining order is in effect for 10 days while the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York more fully considers constitutional arguments about the city’s unique-in-the-nation prohibition on worship services in vacant public school buildings on weekends.
“Churches help communities; evicting churches hurts communities. Empty buildings offer nothing to communities that need hope,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence, who argued before the court on Tuesday. “The court’s order is a message of hope for fundamental freedoms in New York City because it means that, for the time being, the city must welcome churches as it does other groups. ADF will continue to fight this battle relentlessly until the city no longer unconstitutionally prohibits activity for purely religious reasons.”
ADF sought the order on Feb. 3 to stop the evictions based on violations of the First Amendment that had not been ruled on previously in the case, Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York. According to the court, it issued the order because “the Plaintiffs have demonstrated irreparable harm and a likelihood of success on the merits of their Free Exercise and Establishment Clause claims….”
Many New York City churchgoers have been protesting the city’s plans to evict them ever since the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the case on free speech grounds on Dec. 5 of last year. A bill that would compel the city’s Department of Education to allow the worship services passed the state senate this month and is awaiting action by the state assembly.
“This order from the court in no way should stop efforts by the New York Legislature to overturn this policy,” Lorence explained. “The courts have consistently ruled that the Constitution does not require New York City to ban religious worship services, so the city or the state legislature is free to repeal the policy.”
- Pronunciation guide: Lorence (LOHR’-ents)
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.