Despite being written in the Constitution more than 200 years ago, separation of church and state has caused a discord in politics and society since its inception. Such is still the case as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced he supports a brief filed by city attorneys to uphold a policy banning churches from renting school space for worship.
Separation of church and state was written into the Constitution by Thomas Jefferson with the intent to ensure that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” and that congress won’t make a law favoring a religion or prohibiting exercise of religion.
According to the Christian Examiner, de Blasio had promised to reverse the ban during his campaign for mayor. But it seems as though the New York mayor is singing a different tune.
“When de Blasio campaigned for mayor in 2013, he courted Christians with a pledge to change the policy,” says the newspaper. “And they responded with such strong support that he trounced his opponent with 73 percent of the vote.”
Despite this, de Blasio's legal team has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court against the Bronx Household of Faith — a New York City church that has requested to rent school space to hold services for Sunday worship. According to the newspaper, the congregation lacks room and requested to use a school.
Though the church was told it could use school space for numerous other activities, using the space for worship would violate New York City’s education policy which prohibits “using a school as a house of worship.”
The church went on to sue the city and won its case.
The city appealed the case and asserted that policy was not specifically targeting Christian worship, but rather it wished to avoid the “perception of ‘state-sponsored Christian churches,’” according to an article written by Patricia Hurtado for Bloomberg Business.
The city says the policy “does not prohibit, limit, or burden any religious practice; does not entangle the government in matters of religion; and does not impair petitioners’ ability to speak freely.”
Jordan Lorence spoke for the Alliance Defending Freedom — the legal organization defending the Bronx Household of Faith — saying, "Violating the First Amendment, as New York City is doing, hurts everyone. For that reason, we hop the U.S. Supreme Court will agree to hear his important case."