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Second Cir. Decision on Church Services in Public Schools Stands

By Robyn Hagan Cain on December 06, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Supreme Court has declined to review a Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision on church services in public schools. On Monday, the Court denied cert in Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York.

The lack of action means that more than 60 religious groups that hold church services in New York public schools will be without worship facilities by February 12, 2012, reports The New York Times.

In a June decision, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a New York City Department of Education rule prohibiting the use of schools for "religious services or religious instruction" did not constitute viewpoint discrimination because banning church services in public schools was not an effort to exclude expressions of religious points of view or of religious devotion.

The court further concluded the Department's goal in implementing that rule was to avoid violating the Establishment Clause, thus excluding church services in public schools was a reasonable content-based restriction that did not violate the Free Speech Clause.

While the Department heralded the decision as a victory for school children and families, church groups that have been meeting in the school believe that the decision is creating a double-standard.

"(The city) allows anything pertaining to the welfare of the community - that ranges from labor union meetings, to Alcoholics Anonymous groups, to filming episodes of Law & Order - and one of the things prohibited is private worship services," Jordan Lorence, lead attorney for University Heights Church, told the New York Daily News. "When these school buildings stand empty on Sunday mornings, it benefits the community to open them up and allow religious groups to meet."

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