In response to a federal district judge’s ruling today that will allow churches to continue holding worship services in New York City public schools, the New York Civil Liberties Union issued the following statement, which is attributable to NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman:
"This case involves two competing and important constitutional values: The First Amendment prohibition against government discriminating on the content of expression and the First Amendment prohibition against the government appearing to endorse religion.
"In attempting to strike a balance between these values, the court has discounted concerns about government appearing to endorse religion when it allows public schools to be used as houses of worship. We believe this is the wrong approach.
"The NYCLU champions the right of all New Yorkers to worship, or not, as they choose. But turning public schools into churches every Sunday undermines the core American principle of separation of church and state.
"We expect that the ultimate decision on this matter will be made by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which has previously upheld the city’s policy."
Last year, the Second Circuit issued a decision upholding a New York City Department of Education policy prohibiting worship services in public schools. In upholding the policy, the Second Circuit explained:
"When worship services are performed in a place, the nature of the site changes. The site is no longer simply a room in a school being used temporarily for some activity. The church has made the school the place where it performs its rites, and might well appear to have established itself there. The place has, at least for a time, become the church."