Churches threatened with eviction from New York City public schools are celebrating the city council's passage today of a resolution calling on state lawmakers to protect their right to rent worship space on Sundays.
"Right to Worship Resolution passes NY City Council by 38-11," noted A Journey Through NYC Religions, which broke the news in a brief post. "Council steamrolls over Speaker Christine Quinn's opposition to resolution."
The resolution (full text) notes that current restrictions "have had a more restrictive effect on religious organizations seeking to use school property than would appear to be required by the Establishment Clause," and calls upon state lawmakers and the governor to "sign legislation amending the New York State
Education Law to afford houses of worship equal access to school property."
"This is one of the first times in recent memory that the city council has responded to faith-based groups and, despite significant opposition, passed a resolution supporting their rights," said Tony Carnes, editor of the Journey site, which chronicles religious life in NYC. "That's a remarkable change, and certainly will catch attention."
Carnes pointed to a Journey poll indicating that nearly 70 percent of the neighbors of schools that rent to churches do not see the rentals as a problematic endorsement of religion.
The long-running legal standoff between churches and the city's education department over whether or not schools can ban worship has been pending since a judge blocked the city's ban last June and the city appealed. The Supreme Court declined to hear the relevant lawsuit by the Bronx Household of Faith. A previous attempt by lawmakers at the state level to permit church rentals failed.
New York pastors protested the eviction attempt (one started a hunger strike). Tim Keller called the attempt to oust churches "unwise." CT also editorialized on the issue.
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