City Can Ban Religious Services in Schools, Federal Court Says

April 4, 2014 | Andy Cush

A federal court ruled yesterday that the city can uphold a ban on religious services in schools, overturning an earlier decision in which a lower court called such a ban unconstitutional. The religious lobby shouldn’t worry quite yet, however, as it’s not certain that the appeals court’s ruling will have any effect. As the Times points out, the decision doesn’t force the city to kick churches, mosques, and synagogues out of schools; it only says that doing so wouldn’t violate the Constitution.

Michael Bloomberg supported the ban, but Mayor de Blasio has come out on the side of religious groups. “I stand by my belief that a faith organization playing by the same rules as any community nonprofit deserves access,” he said yesterday. “You know, they have to go through the same application process, wait their turn for space, pay the same rent. But I think they deserve access. They play a very, very important role in terms of providing social services and other important community services, and I think they deserve that right.”

Donna Lieberman of the NCLU celebrated the symbolic victory, referring to “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,” she said, “it sends a powerful message to students and the community at large that the government favors that particular church.”

(Photo: @Matt @ PEK)