Empty Buildings

NYC Kicks Churches out of Schools

The separation of church and state is one thing. But the isolation of church from state is another.

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Chuck  Colson

It’s no secret that Christianity has been unwelcome in public schools for a long time. But recently New York City’s government took an unprecedented step by forcing around 60 churches to vacate sanctuaries they pay to use.

Why? Because Monday through Friday, those sanctuaries also happen to be classrooms.

This deadline was set back in December, when the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the 2nd Circuit’s decision upholding the City’s crass discrimination against communities of faith. New York at this time is the only major city in the nation to ban religious services in its school buildings. But this precedent does not bode well for what may happen in other cities.

The reasoning behind this decision was ludicrous. In his ruling, Circuit Judge Pierre Leval claimed that renting school property to churches implies “an unintended bias in favor of Christian religions,” that makes public schools look like “state-sponsored Christian churches…but not synagogues or mosques.”

New York City Department of Education spokeswoman Marge Feinberg, agreed: “Public school space[s]… which are funded by taxpayers’ dollars…cannot and should not be used for worship services, especially because school space is not equally available to all faiths.”

Hogwash. The last I checked, Muslim and Jewish groups weren’t standing in line waiting for a room on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

But more than that, it’s out-of-touch, both with history and reality. Public schools and churches in this nation have always shared space, dating back to the early, single-teacher schools that met in church buildings on the frontier. And today around the nation, thousands of congregations meet every week in public schools. If that’s a government endorsement of Christianity, then what about the millions of Americans who will cast their ballots this November in church buildings?

In addition to their blatant discrimination, city officials are also shooting themselves in the fiscal foot and harming the community.

By renting space, New York churches help alleviate budget shortfalls — something which, according to Fernando Santos of The New York Times — has hit the city’s schools hard. Without religious tenants, schools will find themselves further in the hole and may have to lay off more employees, including teachers.

Tim Keller, my good friend and pastor of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian, says, “Family stability, resources for those in need, and compassion for the marginalized are all positive influences that neighborhood churches provide.” He’s right. George Russ of the New York Metropolitan Baptist Association noted that some churches have “purchased furniture for the teacher's lounge; they've given video equipment to the schools. They've done so many thank-you kinds of projects."

But all this apparently means nothing to New York bureaucrats and the Circuit Court in their effort to expunge religion from public life.

Christians introduced the virtue or tolerance into Western civilization, and we cherish it to this day. But apparently our faith is too much for the New York City government to tolerate in its empty buildings — even long after the bell has rung.

Editor’s note: Last Thursday, the U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Preska issued a temporary restraining order to permit churches to continue meeting in New York City public schools. For more details, visit the Alliance Defense Fund.

Further Reading and Information

Court: NYC Can Ban Churches From School Buildings
Todd Starnes | Fox News | December 5, 2011

Lessons in Austerity
Fernanda Santos | New York Times | August 17, 2011

No Worship, Please. This Is the House of State
Michael Carr | WND | February 6, 2012

Good News in Gotham
Chuck Colson | BreakPoint Radio | September 16, 2011

Churches to Lose Use of School Space After a Legal Push Fails
Sharon Otterman | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | December 5, 2011

Update: NYC pastor on hunger strike over worship ban.
Tim Morgan | Christianity Today | January 5, 2012


NYC Schools
I know you are a very smart man with long experience in national politics.

The framers of the Constitution specifically note as recorded in the Senate record upon ratifying that revolutionary document, state emphatically that the this country WAS NOT founded as a christian nation.

They knew the dangers of the the mix of church and state. Remember they created the Constitution less than 100 acter teh religious civil war which tore the UK apart.

A close review of records and papers written by these men show that the 'separation of church and state' was not done to keep the government from interfering with the church, but TO KEEP THE CHURCH FROM INTERFERING WITH THE STATE.

As an orthodox evangelical christian, I am sorry to see the church involved in temporal matters of government such as the most recent social war over same sex marriage.

According to the bible, the church has authority on over the church and that we should not mind ourselves with the temporary and quickly passing of this world but rather focus on the life to come.

If the church put the resources and energy into evangelism and building itself up that it puts into fighting a social war which it has no biblical authority to pursue, one could only imagine what it would be by now.

Regarding the city of New York choosing to separate any affiliation with churches, I agree with you that it is a longstanding tradition to use public space as religious meeting houses.

This, however, is democracy at work, if the citizens of NYC don't want it, then let them vote them out of office, but the church should not get itself involved in politics.
Only in NY (hopefully)
Yo! Dis is a real STOOPID decision.