NYC Says Churches Must Stop Holding Services in Public Schools by February 2012
This decision will cause about 60 churches that hold regular services in public schools to move their congregations to other facilities in the city. It will affect TKC student favorites, including Apostles Church, Trinity Grace Church and Redeemer Presbyterian.
“I think the court is being inconsistent,” JR Vassar, Lead Pastor of Apostles Church, said. “Other non-school related organizations are allowed to meet in public schools, and they all have values that they believe are important for human flourishing. Churches are no different.”
Apostles Church currently holds its morning Sunday service at Robert F. Wagner Middle School. Leaders at Apostles Church are gathering regularly to fast and pray about finding a new meeting location for the congregation after the February deadline. They are also planning to push for the passage of resolutions which oppose the city’s ban.
The ban resulted from the Supreme Court’s refusal to review a lower-court ruling that supported the city’s decision to prohibit the Bronx Household of Faith from holding its Sunday services at Public School 15, where it has worshiped since 2002.
“We view this as a victory for the city’s schoolchildren and their families,” Jane Gordon, the senior counsel of the New York City Law Department, said. “The Education Department was quite properly concerned about having any school in this diverse city identified with one particular religious belief or practice.”
The case of the Bronx Household of Faith captured the nation’s attention because of the case’s relationship to First Amendment rights.
Robert G. Hall, a co-pastor of the Bronx Household of Faith, applied for the use of a public school in which to hold worship services in 1994. After the Board of Education denied the application, the church sued the Board, losing the whole way through the United States Court of Appeals.
In 2001, the Bronx Household of Faith won an injunction against the city, which required it to permit churches to use schools for their services until the court settled the case. When the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit made a final ruling in June 2011, however, it sided with the city.