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Will NYC Schools Lose Their Religion?

By Robyn Hagan Cain on November 20, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has considered a New York City ban on churches holding worship services in public schools 5 times over the last 17 years.

A three-judge panel heard the latest round of arguments on Monday, and it seems that the appellate court will once again side with the city, The Associated Press reports.

Last June, 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. In December, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Originally, the Supreme Court denial meant that more than 40 groups that hold their weekly worship services in the school had to find new locations by February 12. The Bronx Household of Faith, however, continued pressing the 17-year dispute, claiming that some of the issues in the case had been insufficiently considered.

In February, District Judge Loretta Preska issued an injunction to delay enforcement of the rule. Judge Preska ruled that "losing one's right to exercise freely and fully his or her religious beliefs is a greater threat to our democratic society than a misperceived violation of the Establishment Clause," reports ABC News.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the injunction in March, but that relief may be short-lived.

Judge Guido Calabresi told Alliance Defense Fund attorney Jordan Lorence that he was "troubled by your argument that the Constitution requires a city to allow a religion to do what you do simply because it is a religion." Judge Calabresi noted that the ADF's position would place churches in a more favorable position than other groups, the AP reports.

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