Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Description:  The Bronx Household of Faith is an inner-city New York City church that sought to rent a public school building on Sundays to hold its weekly worship service but had its request rejected by the New York City Board of Education. This led to a legal battle that began in the federal court system in 1995 to secure equal access to public buildings not only for Bronx Household of Faith, but for other churches and faith groups as well.

ADF to Supreme Court: NYC’s arguments to throw out churches fall short

City continues push to exile church meetings from empty public school buildings
Monday, January 26, 2015

Attorney sound bites:  Jordan Lorence  |  David Cortman
Video:  The Bronx Household of Faith Story  |  Video news release  |  B-roll


WASHINGTON — Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court Monday that answers New York City’s arguments against high court scrutiny of its 20-year-old quest to ban worship services in empty public school buildings. In September of last year, ADF asked the high court to review a 2-1 ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit that upheld a city policy prohibiting worship services in public school buildings during non-school hours. The panel’s ruling is on hold until the Supreme Court decides whether to take the case.

“In New York City, any community group can meet in vacant school buildings for any purpose except for religious groups meeting to worship God. The city’s arguments in defense of this policy cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “Evicting churches and the help they offer the people in their communities through their worship services in otherwise empty buildings on weekends helps no one. Violating the First Amendment, as New York City is doing, hurts everyone. For that reason, we hope the U.S. Supreme Court will agree to hear this important case.”

The panel’s ruling in Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York said that the city can single out for exclusion what it defines as “religious worship services.” The New York City Department of Education has defended this policy, known as Regulation I.Q., in court on and off since 1995 even though the department allows other community groups to rent space for their meetings.

“The Department did not need to open its facilities for after-hours nongovernmental uses, but it did. Now it must abide by constitutional rules forbidding express discrimination against religious expression and practices in otherwise permissible uses,” the ADF reply brief explains.

“Conspicuously absent from [the city’s] opposition is any attempt to describe how Reg. I.Q. survives the baseline free exercise [of religion] test announced…and affirmed in [two previous Supreme Court decisions],” the brief states. “This is not surprising because a government policy like Reg. I.Q., which singles out expressive conduct undertaken for religious reasons for exclusion from a public forum is not neutral or generally applicable and cannot be justified by an unfounded fear of violating the Establishment Clause.”

“Churches meeting in New York City public schools for worship services have fed the poor and needy, assisted in rehabilitating drug addicts and gang members, helped rebuild marriages and families, and provided for the disabled,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “The churches have also helped the public schools themselves by volunteering to paint the interiors of inner-city schools; donating computers, musical instruments, and air conditioners; and providing effective after-school programs to help all students with their studies. We hope the Supreme Court will allow them to continue being a true benefit to the communities they love to serve.”

The Supreme Court is expected to consider the ADF petition at its Feb. 20 conference.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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Additional resources: Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Previous news releases:

  • 2015-01-26: ADF to Supreme Court: NYC’s arguments to throw out churches fall short
  • 2014-09-24: ADF asks US Supreme Court to uphold freedom of churches to meet in NYC public schools
  • 2014-05-07: Supreme Court’s prayer decision supports freedom of churches to meet in NYC public schools
  • 2014-04-17: ADF appeals decision against churches meeting in NYC public schools
  • 2014-04-03: ADF considering next steps after 2nd Cir. rules against weekend worship services at NYC public schools
  • 2013-05-23: NYC Council resolution gives churches hope
  • 2012-11-16: NYC churches helping Sandy victims still face eviction
  • 2012-06-29: Hope renewed: Weekend worship services will continue at NYC schools
  • 2012-05-31: Will court say worship services can continue in NYC public schools on weekends?
  • 2012-02-24: Alive and kicking: Churches to resume meeting at NYC schools
  • 2012-02-16: New life: Like a phoenix rising, churches can continue meeting in NYC schools
  • 2012-02-13: Lawsuit re-energized to stop eviction of worship services from NYC schools
  • 2012-01-09: Faith leaders to Bloomberg: Don’t leave churches homeless; stand for equal access, religious liberty
  • 2011-12-05: Supreme Court lets NYC ‘unequal access’ policy at public schools stand
  • 2011-09-27: ADF asks Supreme Court to halt NYC unequal access policy
  • 2011-06-16: ADF appeals Bronx ruling to keep churches meeting in NYC public schools
  • 2011-06-02: Bronx fail: 2nd Cir. says churches can’t rent NYC school facilities, but all other community groups can
  • 2009-10-05: ADF attorney available for media interviews after 2nd Circuit hearing in Bronx church case
  • 2008-04-01: U.S. DOJ: N.Y. churches entitled to equal treatment by schools
  • 2007-11-02: Judge grants permanent injunction to allow Bronx church to meet at public school on Sundays
  • 2005-11-17: Free at last
  • 2005-05-19: U.S. Justice Department joins ADF in defending equal access for churches in NYC
  • 2005-02-07: ADF attorney defends equal access for churches

  • Jordan Lorence: Town of Greece decision brings needed common sense to Establishment Clause...and to New York City (National Review, 2014-05-09)
  • Jordan Lorence: Obama DOJ decides not to support religious liberty in NYC (National Review, 2012-10-09)
  • Jordan Lorence: President Obama's Department of Justice once again rejects protection for religious liberty (Christian Post, 2012-10-09)
  • Jordan Lorence: NYC vs. Jefferson: unfair worship ban (New York Post, 2012-08-11)
  • Jordan Lorence: In NYC, schools in churches are OK, but churches in schools are not? (Baptist Press, 2012-02-01)
  • Jordan Lorence: NYC’s senseless slap at prayer (New York Post, 2012-01-19)
  • Tom Minnery: Bloomberg's 'tolerance' hypocrisy: Why does the mayor welcome the mosque and fight small churches? (New York Daily News, 2010-08-23)
  • Jordan Lorence: Give churches space in vacant city schools: They're asking for equal access, nothing more (New York Daily News, 2010-01-27)

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