The Bronx Household of Faith will now be allowed to meet for worship on Sundays at Public School 15 in New York City, according to a ruling by Judge Loretta A. Preska of Federal District Court in Manhattan.
The New York Times reports on the long-running case:
Judge Preska's new ruling is virtually the opposite of one she wrote in the same case in 1996, when she agreed with the school board's decision to bar the group from meeting in a public school building for "religious worship." Judge Preska has now brought the case into line with a 2001 decision by the Supreme Court, which found that religious teachings on school premises were no different from other secular lessons about "morals and character development."
Law.com notes that the change came when the Supreme Court decided the Good News Club v. Milford Central School. Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion, saying, "What matters for purposes of the free speech clause is that we can see no logical difference in kind between the invocation of Christianity by the club and the invocation of teamwork, loyalty, or patriotism by other associations to provide a foundation for their lessons."
So Judge Preska ruled that the church service was not "mere" religion. The church conducts activities beyond the religious, which, Preska wrote, "are clearly consistent with the type of activities previously permitted in the forum and consistent with activities expressly permitted."
"The government may not treat activities that are similar to those previously permitted as different in kind just because the subject activities are conducted from a religious perspective," Preska wrote, according to Law.com.
The judge also rejected the school board's argument that the church's presence in the middle school ...1