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Church And State Battle Brewing As NYC Mulls Kicking Worship Services Out Of Schools

City Council Debating Resolution 1155, Which Would Allow Practice To Continue
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Separation of church and state

A stained glass window inside a NYC house of worship. (Photo: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Since 2002, churches in New York City have been holding worship services in public school buildings.

But that’s about to come to an end and, as CBS 2’s Mark Morgan reports, religious leaders are upset.

The Department of Education has stated that all churches holding services in public schools must vacate those schools after Sunday, Feb. 12. On Thursday, the NYC Council Committee on Education held a hearing on Resolution 1155, which would allow churches access to public schools.

“These houses of worship are paying rent just like every other non-profit group. The fact that they’re paying substantiates the fact that the government is not supporting,” Councilman Fernando Cabrera said.

“This, to me, is about whether or not we’re going to subsidize churches in our public schools. We’re not talking about a bible study class. We’re talking about regular worship each and every week in our public schools,” responded Councilwoman Jessica Lappin.

Opposition to Resolution 1155 comes mainly from the belief that church and state should remain separate.

“It appears to be a house of worship and that creates confusion, and that’s what our constitution was designed to prevent, that confusion of a state supporting any religion,” Councilman Daniel Dromm said.

Since 2002, about 60 religious organizations have been holding worship services in NYC public school buildings. These religious groups feel they need these public facilities to continue to benefit their surrounding communities.

“We’re taxpayers. We’re equal participants in our society. We just want to have the same access to the same public institutions that other groups have access to,” said Rev. Kirsten John Foy of Abiding Love Ministries in Brooklyn.

The City Council will discuss the resolution in another hearing before deciding whether to hold a vote.

Advocates are calling on the state Legislature to pass the resolution and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to then sign the legislation.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …

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