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

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Thursday, April 02, 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.

NYC churches hope mayor keeps promise, rescinds worship service ban

US Supreme court leaves decision in place that will boot worship services from empty schools if mayor doesn’t act
Monday, March 30, 2015

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


WASHINGTON – Many eyes are turning to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Monday as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to leave in place an appeals court ruling that upheld a city ban on worship services in public school buildings during non-school hours.

The high court did not overturn its precedent that appears clearly to run counter to such policies, but it did decline to disturb a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruling that upheld the city’s policy. That move leaves the decision squarely in the lap of de Blasio, who has the power to revoke the policy and expressed his disagreement with it immediately after the 2nd Circuit’s ruling.

“Any community group can meet in New York City’s school buildings during non-school hours for any purpose – except for religious groups meeting to worship God. This policy is clearly nothing more than religious segregation – the kind of segregation the mayor has said he opposes,” said Jordan Lorence, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, which has represented Bronx Household of Faith for 20 years in its legal battle against the city’s policy.

“If the city chooses to use this occasion to evict the churches, it will be shooting itself in the foot,” Lorence explained. “It will be throwing out the very groups that provide enormous and very needed help to their communities and even the schools themselves, as Mayor de Blasio rightly has acknowledged.”

“I stand by my belief that a faith organization playing by the same rules as any community non-profit deserves access,” de Blasio said at a press conference last year. “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.”

New York City Councilman Fernando Cabrera (left) stands with other New York City citizens at a rally on Dec. 8, 2011, in opposition to the New York City Department of Education's policy prohibiting worship services in public school buildings outside of classtime.
Churches meeting in the city’s 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. 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. Some churches that do have their own buildings have provided meeting space for overcrowded public schools at the city’s request.

“The Education Department’s argument that it must ban worship services to protect children from religion – as though it were a disease – falls apart on many levels, not the least of which is how willing the city has been to accept the free help churches willingly offer,” explained ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “We hope the mayor will allow these congregations to continue being a true benefit to the communities they love to serve.”

The 2nd Circuit’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.

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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Thursday, April 02, 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: Churches’ legal battle against New York City shows what real discrimination looks like (National Review, 2015-04-02)
  • 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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