NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Supreme Court has rejected an evangelical church’s plea to overturn New York City’s ban on after-hours religious worship services at public schools.
WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman On The Story
The justices on Monday left in place a federal appeals court ruling that upheld the city’s policy. The Bronx Household of Faith is an evangelical Christian church that has held Sunday services at P.S. 15 in the Bronx since 2002.
The church services have been allowed to continue pending the outcome of the school’s lawsuit against the city.
Co-Pastor Robert Hall told 1010 WINS there are 48 adult full-time members in the church, but often 100 people in the congregation on Sundays — including children.
“It’s one thing for the state to say no religious activity at all, but it’s another thing to say we’ll allow this kind of religious activity, but not that kind of religious activity,” Hall told WCBS 880 reporter Alex Silverman. The reason for the denial from the city was that religious groups could meet there, but not for worship.
“The Court of Appeals correctly upheld the Department of Education’s policy not to allow the City’s public schools to be used as houses of worship. This case has been litigated for 16 years, and we’re gratified that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear it. We view this as a victory for the City’s school children and their families. The Department was quite properly concerned about having any school in this diverse City identified with one particular religious belief or practice,” said Jane Gordon, Senior Counsel of the New York City Law Department.
The church is building a new building and hopes to use that this summer.
The church says the city allows many groups to use school buildings after hours. But the city says that it risks blurring church-state separation if it allows worship services in public schools.
The city says that roughly five dozen congregations used public schools for their religious services in 2009.
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Copyright 2011 The Associated Press