SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division filed a brief Tuesday supporting Alliance Defense Fund in a New York City lawsuit concerning equal access to public buildings for inner-city churches.
Several New York church groups, including Bronx Household of Faith, rent school buildings on a temporary basis during off-hours to hold services and offer community outreach not otherwise available in those neighborhoods. Opponents of equal access have painted the use of public buildings, including schools, as a move by churches to unduly influence the primary occupants.
“The buildings are being used for literally thousands of secular purposes by community groups every day. Churches and only churches are being targeted for exclusion,” said Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “These churches serve a great purpose – offering counseling, food, financial help and youth programs for the poor as well as Biblical instruction and fellowship to comfort and guide people. Denying them equal access is not only unconstitutional; it rips vital services from the communities that need help most.”
The Department of Justice affirmed that the federal appeals court ruling upholding the Constitutionality of equal access for religious groups must be honored and that the school board’s efforts to retain discriminatory policies targeting churches for exclusion must cease.
“There is no reasoned basis to modify this court’s earlier ruling that the city’s exclusion of religious worship from its otherwise extremely broad access policy violates the First Amendment,” according to the Department of Justice brief. “The city’s policy would entangle state actors with religion by requiring them to dissect and categorize the substance of plaintiff’s speech…the city’s proposal thus perpetuates its discrimination against the plaintiffs based on their viewpoint.”
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.