More than 60 churches that faced possible eviction Sunday from New York City public schools should have more room to breathe. The churches will be allowed to continue to meet in public schools, thanks to a permanent injunction issued today from a district court judge.
An ongoing conflict between religious organizations and the Department of Education has kept churches in limbo over the right to rent public school buildings for Sunday worship services. New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn recently blocked a vote to petition the state government to allow houses of worship access to school property. The resolution saw support from 31 of 51 council members, but the state legislative session ended this week, the Queens Chronicle reported.
In December, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in the case. In February, the city's department of education disallowed more than 60 congregations from meeting in public schools for a few days. But after a preliminary injunction, the churches were allowed to keep using the school buildings through June.
Churches faced a July 1 deadline on their access to public schools unless the preliminary injunction was extended. Today's permanent injunction essentially means that those on the side of churches win the case at the district court level, prevailing on the free exercise clause and establishment claims.
But New York City—which has fought this case for 17 years—will likely appeal the case to the Second Circuit. Regardless of how the Second Circuit rules, the losing party at the Second Circuit could still appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
Jordan Lorence, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund has argued the Bronx Household of Faith case since the city decided houses of worship would not be able to meet in public schools.
Christianity Today has been covering this case for several years, including:
New York's Tim Keller Calls Ouster of Churches 'Unwise' (February 7, 2012)
Update: Full New York Senate Okays Bill on Churches at Schools (February 1, 2012)NYC Pastors Hold Prayer Rally to Protest Ouster from Housing Authority Space (January 12, 2012)
Supreme Court Permits NYC Ban on Church Worship Services in Public Schools (December 5, 2011)
U.S. Appeals Court: Schools Can Ban Worship (June 9, 2011)
Can Public Schools Ban Churches from Renting Space? (July 3, 2007)
Churches Can Rent NYC School Buildings (April 13, 2006)
CT also published an editorial on the nature of worship in a church space.