Can Public Schools Ban Churches from Renting Space?
1. A messy decision, ripe for the Supreme Court
Bronx Household of Faith wanted to rent space for Sunday morning worship at Public School 15 in New York City. The city refused, saying allowing church services would suggest endorsement of that church. Like many cases of this kind, it's had a long, messy history in the court system. Monday, it got messier. The three judges on the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals each reached very different conclusions.
"Our disparate views of this case leave us without a rationale to which a majority of the court agrees. While two judges who disagree on the merits believe the dispute is ripe for adjudication, the court cannot decide the merits of the case without the vote of the third judge, who disagrees as to ripeness," the court ruled.
The fractured judgment "could provide the U.S. Supreme Court with its next big establishment clause case," The New York Sun concluded. "The case likely prompted such division because of the question, more theological than legal, at its center: What is worship?"
In its 2001 case Good News Club v. Milford Central School, the court said a school district couldn't discriminate against an extracurricular Christian club if it allowed other extracurricular clubs. But "the federal high court appeared to draw a distinction between religiously oriented lessons and outright worship," the Sun notes, so Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York would allow the Supreme Court to go into more detail on what's acceptable.
2. Sheldon Jackson College suspends operations
The Presbyterian college in Sitka, Alaska, is $6 million in debt, so it has suspended operations for a year "to determine a financially viable future."
3. European Court of Human Rights rules against Norway's mandatory religion classes
Ten years ago, seven families sued Norway over its mandatory religious education classes in elementary school. They lost on the local level, the appellate level, and at Norway's Supreme Court. But Friday, the European Court of Human Rights said the requirement violated the European Convention on Human Rights.
"Notwithstanding the many laudable legislative purposes associated with the introduction of [the religious education curriculum] in the ordinary primary and lower secondary schools, Norway could not be said to have taken sufficient care that information and knowledge included in the curriculum be conveyed in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner for the purposes of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 [of the convention]."
4. Sweden's Christian Democrats may split over abortion
Elsewhere in Scandinavia, members of Sweden's Christian Democrat party may break away to form a new political party over a dispute about the country's abortion law. The party's leader, Göran Hägglund, supports the country's liberal abortion laws and even worked to allow "abortion tourism" in the country. But others in the party, including Per Kronlid, told the Christian newspaper Dagen, "There must be a party which dares to stand" for unborn children. The Christian Democrats currently hold 24 of the Swedish parliament's 349 seats, and is a key part of the coalition government.
5. Iowa's InnerChange program okay for now
The Prison Fellowship program at the Newton Correctional Facility can continue with private funds for another 12 months as it appeals last year's federal court ruling that it violates the establishment clause. "Our donors are willing to step up and keep the program in operation," Prison Fellowship vice president Norman Cox Jr., told the Des Moines Register. "It will continue without state funding, but we are pleased to be able to do that, and we are pleased with the success the program has enjoyed."
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