Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York
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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 1994 to secure equal access to public buildings not only for Bronx Household of Faith, but for other churches and faith groups as well.
Supreme Court’s prayer decision supports freedom of churches to meet in NYC public schools
ADF letter filed with 2nd Circuit cites Town of Greece v. Galloway as support for re-evaluating Bronx decision
Attorney sound bite: Jordan Lorence
ADF attorneys filed a letter with the 2nd Circuit Tuesday that cites the Supreme Court decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway as additional support for having the full 2nd Circuit re-evaluate a three-judge panel’s April decision in Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York. That decision, temporarily on hold, upheld New York City’s ban on churches meeting for worship services in public school buildings.
“Every community group in New York City can rent empty school buildings except for one purpose: worship services,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “The Supreme Court’s decision in the Town of Greece case confirms that the government can’t ‘define permissible categories of religious speech’ in this way.”
“The city essentially argues that treating churches worse than everyone else is its solution to avoiding a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and that just doesn’t square with what the Supreme Court decided in the prayer case,” Lorence added. “Given what the Supreme Court has so recently stated and that it is consistent with the arguments we have made, we hope the full 2nd Circuit will grant our appeal in the Bronx Household case.”
The letter explains that the U.S. Supreme Court concluded in the prayer case that “so long as a city maintains a policy of nondiscrimination” among religions, inviting ministers to pray at public meetings does not violate the Establishment Clause. As the ADF letter explains, “if the government does not commit an actual Establishment Clause violation by inviting ministers to pray at meetings, it certainly cannot fear such a violation, as the City of New York claims here, by operating a forum for speech that is widely open to the community.”
The letter adds that because the Supreme Court confirmed that the government excessively entangles itself with religion when it “seek[s] to define permissible categories of religious speech,” New York City’s policy should be struck down because it unconstitutionally defines certain religious activities as permissible while prohibiting “religious worship services.”
The Supreme Court also stated in its prayer decision that “the Establishment Clause must be interpreted by reference to historical practices and understandings.” The ADF letter points out to the 2nd Circuit that “like prayer, worship services similar to those at issue here occurred regularly in public buildings during our Nation’s founding and have persisted since.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
Additional resources: Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York
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Previous news releases:
- 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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