Federal Appeals Court Supports Religious Freedom by Keeping Worship Out of Public Schools

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April 3, 2014 —  The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday morning that the New York City Department of Education may restrict churches from using public school facilities for religious worship services, a decision applauded by the leadership of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The decision came in Bronx Household v. Board of Education, a case that began more than 18 years ago when the Bronx Household of Faith, an evangelical Christian church, challenged a city policy banning churches from using school property on weekends and after hours for worship services. The NYCLU filed a friend of the court brief in the case.

The following can be attributed to NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman:

“Today’s Court of Appeals decision is a victory for religious freedom. Our Constitution gives all New Yorkers the right to worship – or not – as they choose. That vital freedom depends on preserving the separation of church and state.

“This case is about a group of about 160 religious congregations that were dominating public schools across New York City Sunday after Sunday, year after year. When a school is converted to a church in this way, it sends a powerful message to students and the community at large that the government favors that particular church. Children who are not part of the favored congregation feel diminished, and both the church members and the community stop seeing the distinction between the church and the school. That hurts kids, that hurts people who aren’t members of the church, and that hurts one of our nation’s most cherished principles.

“The Court of Appeals should be applauded for doing the right thing, and the Department of Education and the new administration should stand strong and prevent our public schools from being converted into churches.”