A non-sectarian, non-partisan group has filed a brief to the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a city Board of Education policy that bars religious groups from worshiping in NYC public schools. Under the policy, churches are allowed to use school buildings rent-free for community events, but not for partisan or worship-oriented services. Last year, an appeals court ruled that a Bronx-based church that had been worshipping in a public school for 50 years would no longer be able to use the facilities, in accordance with the policy. The church took its case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, where the decision was overturned in the church’s favor.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the group filing the brief, believes that the district court’s decision to allow the church to continue worshiping was unconstitutional. “When churches hold Sunday services in public schools for years and years without paying rent, it sends a message to students and the public that government favors religion,” said Barry Lynn, Americans United executive director and ordained minister. “Public schools should serve the public interest, not a private sectarian purpose.”