Legal See-Saw Continues Between Churches, NYC Schools


The US Supreme Court has turned down an appeal from a church located in the Bronx which argued that it has the constitutional right to hold worship services within New York City public schools.

Despite this ruling, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that religious groups in the area will still be able to use public school facilities.

In a statement, de Blasio spokesman Wiley Norvell said the administration “remains committed to ensuring that religious organizations are able to use space in City schools on the same terms provided to other groups.  Now that litigation has concluded, the City will develop ‘rules of the road’ that respect the rights of both religious groups and non-participants,” Norvell said.

Despite hearing this from the Mayor, religious leaders in the area are maintaining a cautious attitude.  They have expressed feelings of disappointment over the high court’s decision to not give them a hearing in addition to being concerned that any future mayor could easily overturn de Blasio’s decision, writes John Burger for Aleteia.

When the United States Supreme Court declined to review Bronx Household of Faith vs. Board of Education, the case that upheld a ban by the City Board of Education concerning the use of public schools for religious services, they effectively put the issue back into the hands of the mayor, who has stood in support of religious groups renting space in public schools for a long time, writes Colby Hamilton for Capital New York.

The Bronx Household of Faith is one of a number of religious groups allowed to make use of public school buildings to hold services.  The space is rented out by the city on nights and weekends for what they call subsidized rates.

The city first began to allow religious groups to hold their services within public school buildings in 2002 when court decisions first came about regarding the long-time ban put in place by previous Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had worked hard to keep churches out of the public school system, reports Sharon Otterman for The New York Times.

“For those that want to get rid of those separations let me just point out [that] someday the religion that’s practiced there may not be your religion, and you might in that sense look back and say let’s keep the two separate. It’s one of the basics of this country, and I will certainly support it,” Bloomberg said after a 2012 decision to stop a number of churches from being allowed access in 2012.

Current rules within the city, put into effect in 2010, do not allow partisan political events, private ceremonies and commercial use, in addition to religious services.