The United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last April that New York City has the right to ban religious organizations from using public school space for worship. The ruling was challenged and submitted to the Supreme Court, which this week declined to hear the case.
According to the New York Times, a Christian church, the Bronx Household of Faith, was denied a permit to rent a school building for worship purposes in 1995. The church filed a lawsuit and an injunction, but the church's attempts to question the Constitutionality of the city's policy have continually proved unfruitful. In 2014, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the city's right to prohibit religious worship services in public schools.
Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg was opposed to allowing organizations to worship on school grounds. However, current Mayor Bill de Blasio supports the right of groups to worship in school buildings during non-school hours, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“What I believe in is that there is a single standard for everyone," de Blasio said. “The rent has to be the same as it would be for any other nonprofit—but just because a group is a faith group, I don’t think they should be excluded."
Co-pastor of the Bronx Household of Faith, the Rev. Robert Hall, is pleased that de Blasio has been so supportive, but is disappointed that the Supreme Court will not hear the case.
“We appreciate his support, but what about future mayors?” he said.
Wiley Norvell, spokesman for de Blasio 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.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the Bronx Household of Faith, argues that church groups provide a positive contribution to society, such as feeding the needy and rehabilitating drug addicts and gang members, and that such organizations deserve the same rights as other non-profit groups.
David Cortman, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said: “The Education Department’s argument that it must ban worship services to protect children from religion – as though it were a disease – falls apart on many levels, not the least of which is how willing the city has been to accept the free help churches willingly offer.
“We hope the mayor will allow these congregations to continue being a true benefit to the communities they love to serve,” Cortman continued, as reported by the Alliance Defending Freedom website.