clear
Saturday May 23rd, 2015 9:28AM

NYC can ban church service in public school

By The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) -- In the latest chapter of a long-running legal fight over separation of church and state, a federal appeals court again ruled on Thursday that New York City school officials can ban a small Christian congregation from holding weekend services in a grade school.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that a city Department of Education policy that prohibits church services in public schools is constitutional. The policy allows religious and other community organizations to use classrooms and other facilities for after-hours programs but denies access to those seeking to use the space as a "house of worship."

Two of the three judges on the panel agreed to reverse a 2012 lower court decision by U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska ordering the department not to enforce the rule against the Bronx Household of Faith. The appeals court disagreed with the judge's finding that denying the church access to the school would violate First Amendment protections regarding free exercise of faith.

"In the District Court's view, because Bronx Household and its congregants have a constitutional right to worship as they choose without interference from government and cannot afford to pay for a large enough site to accommodate the entire congregation, the Free Exercise Clause obligates the (department) to provide them with a subsidized facility in which to exercise the right," the majority wrote. "The Free Exercise Clause, however, has never been understood to require government to finance a subject's exercise of religion."

By refusing to host religious services, the department is correctly seeking to avoid the risk of violating the Establishment Clause, which prohibits government from endorsing a religion, the two judges added. The dissenting judge disagreed, in part by citing a survey finding that of the 50 largest school districts in the United States, New York City is the only one that excludes religious worship from its facilities.

"It is striking that none of these other school districts appear to have the slightest concern about violating the Establishment Clause, nor have any of their community use policies been found to violate the clause," the third judge wrote.

A lawyer for the Bronx Household of Faith, Jordan Lorence, said the church was considering an appeal to the entire circuit bench or to the Supreme Court.

"The First Amendment prohibits New York City from singling out worship services and excluding them from empty school buildings," Lorence said in a statement.

The lawyer added: "There is no subsidy of churches here. Churches and religious groups pay the same uniform rates that everyone else does to use the schools."

It was the second time that the appeals court had reversed the lower court judge in a case that's almost two decades old. Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that it was too early to assess the impact of the latest ruling.

The mayor, a Democrat, said he hadn't seen the decision but added that he stood by his beliefs "that a faith organization playing by the same rules as any other community nonprofit deserves access. ... But we'll assess the court decision and we'll go from there."

For now, the Bronx Household of Faith is planning to hold a service in the school on Sunday, its lawyer said.
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 4 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 4 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 4 months ago )
U.S. News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 4 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 4 months ago )
Local/State News
Committee leaves transportation funding to lawmakers
Georgia will have to cover a $1 billion to $1.5 billion transportation funding gap to stay economically competitive, a committee of lawmakers is warning in a report issued Tuesday.
5:36AM ( 4 months ago )
US off war footing at year's end, but wars go on
Taking America off a permanent war footing is proving harder than President Barack Obama may have suggested.
6:13PM ( 4 months ago )
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 4 months ago )
Politics
US rejects nuclear disarmament document over Israel concerns
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States on Friday blocked a global document aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons, saying Egypt and other states tried to "cynically manipulate" the process by...
9:33PM ( 11 hours ago )
Obama again avoids calling 1915 Armenian killings 'genocide'
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will once again stop short of calling the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide, prompting anger and disappointment from those who have been pushing him to ful...
1:00PM ( 1 month ago )
Ex-NFL star Hernandez convicted of murder, sentenced to life
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for a deadly late-night shooting, sealing the d...
8:54PM ( 1 month ago )
Clinton kicks off 2016 campaign online, heads next to Iowa
WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton jumped back into presidential politics on Sunday, making a much-awaited announcement she will again seek the White House with a promise to serve as the "champi...
7:56PM ( 1 month ago )
Hall, White, Jefferson schools recognized nationally for use of technology
Three school districts in northeast Georgia - Hall, White, and Jefferson - have received national recognition for their use use of innovative technologies. They earned top spots in the Center for Digital Education's and the National School Boards Association's 10th annual Digital School Districts Survey.
By Staff
1:00PM ( 1 month ago )