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Monday, May 5, 2014

Policy Banning Use of Schools for Worship Upheld

A federal court of appeals court recently upheld a policy prohibiting the use of public schools in New York City for religious worship. Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education, No. 12-2730-cv (2d Cir. Apr. 3, 2014). 

Regulation I.Q. was adopted in 2007 and bans organizations from using school property to perform religious worship services. Applying that rule, a New York school denied a permit to Bronx Household that would have allowed the group to use school facilities on Sunday for "Christian worship services."  The organization sued, claiming that the rule violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.  The district court ruled in favor of the organization, but the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the Board of Education could refuse to allow organizations to use school facilities for worship services.  

First, the Court held that the Free Exercise Clause only bars the government from prohibiting citizen's free exercise, it does not require the government to "finance a subject's exercise of religion."  Second, the Court held that the New York City policy was not aimed at suppressing any specific religion and was a uniform and content-neutral rule because it treats all religions identically.  Finally, the Court rejected the organization's argument that the Board's act of determining whether the Bronx Household activities were worship services itself violated the Establishment Clause, excessively entangling the Board with religion.  

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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