Update: NYC pastor on hunger strike over worship ban.
Revised: Friday, Jan. 13, 2012
Update: Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012
See the Twitter feed at http://www.nycreligion.org for ongoing updates about the dispute between the NYC Housing Authority and pastors who hold churches services in municipal buildings.
One pastor announced a personal hunger strike to draw public attention to this situation.
CT senior writer Tony Carnes noted that the "New York 7," those who were arrested as noted below, have called for a public prayer event: "NY7 issues call to gather on Feb 2, 8AM to 10AM, NYC Board of Education , 52 Chambers St to pray. "
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A religious freedom news story is developing in New York City today that should worry any lover of First Amendment guarantees for freedom of religious expression.
CT senior writer, Tony Carnes, also founder/editor of www.nycreligion.org reports that:
Over the Christmas holidays, several local directors of facilities of the New York City Housing Authority notified religious groups, mostly Christian churches, that they could no longer rent community rooms and other facilities. NYCHA officials gave little or no warning of the change of policy and did most of their communicating with the religious groups through word of mouth or email. One church, Open Door Fellowship of East Harlem, was given notice on December 29th two days before their January renewal, leaving the pastor to a scramble to find space for their annual Baptism service.
Their sudden ouster with no hearing process about the change of policy left religious leaders angry. This morning they protested outside the NYC Department of Law at 100 Church Street. A Journey received a call describing the situation, "This is Pastor Devlin [of Manhattan Bible Church] in the back of a police van. We've been arrested. There are 7 arrested." Pastors Dimas Salaberrios of Infinity Church, Pastor Michael Carrion of Promiseland Covenant Church, City Councilman Fernando Cabrera and three others were also arrested.
Right after the United States Supreme Court declined on December 5th to consider a lower court's [ruling that the NYC Education Dept. could legally ban worship services by] religious groups renting space in public schools during the off-hours, some local NYCHA directors asked their bosses if the court decision meant that religious groups also can't meet in the NYCHA rooms set aside for community groups' usage. One director of a Manhattan community center at a public housing project sent the administrator of Manhattan Borough Community Operations a copy of the newspaper article about the case. The implied question was, what should I do? The administrator emailed back, "NYCHA will not be able to rent to Churches based on a recent circumstance. Our Apologies."