While recent revelations suggest communist China may be marginally easing its persecution of Christians, New York City seems to be heading in the opposite direction.
A court has ruled that New York City can legally discriminate against Christians.
The case involved the New York City Board of Education’s (NYCBE) refusal to rent schools to Christian groups for worship services over the weekend, simply because they are Christian. Meanwhile, it allowed others to rent the same property.
The case involved the school board’s refusal to rent space to the Bronx House of Faith. The church decided to fight the ban in court.
The NYCBE argued their refusal to rent revolved around the U.S. Constitution’s freedom of religion and the separation of church provisions found in the First Amendment.
In 2012, the Bronx House of Faith won the lower court case allowing it to rent space.
In her decision, Judge Loretta Preska ruled the Board of Education’s ban violated the very foundation of the First Amendment which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This is referred to as the First Amendment’s “establishment clause.”
The school board appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second District. In its recent two to one judgement, the court ruled in favor of the school board, saying it had the right to refuse Christians the use of school property.
The lone dissenting judge, Circuit Justice John Walker strongly disagreed. In his ruling, he stated that Board’s refusal:
“plainly discriminates against religious belief and cannot be justified by a compelling government interest.”
“Shutting the door to religious worship services in such a setting where every other activity is permitted strikes at the clause’s core. Of the 50 largest school districts in the United States, New York city alone entirely excludes religious worship from its facilities.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) handled the case for the Bronx House of Faith. ADF attorney Jordan Lorence responded to the recent decision stating:
“The opinion uses the establishment clause as an excuse to treat people of faith worse than everybody else.”
Perhaps Fox News commentator Todd Starnes best summed up the real issues at play here when he wrote:
“… there’s a difference between freedom of religion and freedom from religion.”
Ironically, the case has dragged on so long, the Bronx House of Faith finally built its own church. But Lorence added that the church would continue the fight and will appeal the decision.
- Why is New York City bullying Christians? Fox News
- New York City Can Block Religious Services in Public Schools, Appeals Court Says: The New York Times
- U.S. Court Ruling Allows Religious Groups to Use Schools for Services: The New York Times