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Federal Judge grants churches temporary order against Bloomberg’s ouster of churches from schools. Judge says it is likely that city violated U.S. Constitution on religious freedom

Update: Another court rules only 1 church will be permitted to meet in a NYC public school on Sunday.

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Update: Only one church will be permitted to meet in a NYC public school on Sunday, February 19. On Friday the city government started issuing permits for churches to continue meeting in public schools. Mayor Bloomberg said that the city couldn't stop the churches from meeting. However, the city government appealed the decision of U.S. District Court Judge Loretta A. Preska. Then, a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the temporary restraining order against the city schools only applied to the situation of the one church in whose name the case was brought to the courts. So, only Bronx Household of Faith may meet in a public school on Sunday.

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U. S. Federal District Court Judge Loretta A. Preska granted a temporary order to restrain the NYC Board of Education from blocking Sunday worship services of churches renting space from the public schools. She found the plaintiffs, Bronx Household of Faith and their pastors, had demonstrated "irreparable harm and a likelihood of success on the merits of their Free Exercise Clause and Establishment Clause claims." Her order will affect all religious groups holding worship services in the public schools.

The appeal was based squarely on the freedom of religion clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

The judge noted that her restraining order will be in effect for 10 days while the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York more fully considers constitutional arguments about the city’s unique-in-the-nation prohibition on worship services in vacant public school buildings on weekends. The court then may decide on whether to issue a preliminary injunction to allow further consideration or a permanent injunction.

Before the Federal judge ruled against them, city lawyers wrote her that they already had plans to rent to others the space where the churches had been meeting. The city government said that they wanted to act immediately. "The Department [of Education] cannot...hold off preparations for these events [next weekend] in abeyance even until tomorrow [Wednesday]."

Several ministries and churches have reported to A Journey that this week the Department of Education badgered them to answer the question "Will you be holding worship services at your event?" One ministry had sent in their application with the statement on the application that "we are not a worship service." However, the city delayed a decision on the application and cross-examined the applicant. "Your permit to continue to use [the school] is currently under review. Please advise in writing whether the activity you will be conducting includes worship services. You cannot continue using the building until we receive and review this information."

From scattered evidence it seems that the city is deliberately scaring the groups into not answering the question for fear of saying something wrong. Some ministers wonder if the question isn't some sort of trick question. Other leaders say that because they consider all of their activities, even Bible studies, to be some sort of worship, that the question doesn't make sense to their theology.

Pastor Bill Devlin, one of the protest leaders, said that if a church or ministry is doing just a Bible study, prayer, devotionals or other legally protected acts, that it should clearly and forthrightly list what they are doing. However, the city is using this answer as evidence of being unforthcoming.

Reformation Presbyterian Church Pastor Brad Hertzog wrote to the court that his application to continue holding Bible study services for about 65 people at a school in Fresh Meadows, Queens, was denied by the city after he declined to answer yes or no to the question: "Are you conducting religious worship services?" Crossroads Church in Staten Island applied for a farewell gathering at Public School 52 this coming Sunday. They insisted that their gathering was not a worship service but were told that their application would be treated skeptically.

The municipal legal beagles informed the judge that the city government had little sympathy for the churches."The hardship [the churches' claim] is entirely one of their own making," said Jonathan Pines, Asst Corporation Counsel for the City of New York. After the judge's ruling today, the counsel for Bronx Household of Faith and its pastors argued that it was the city government that was dealing out pain to whole neighborhoods.

“Churches help communities; evicting churches hurts communities. Empty buildings offer nothing to communities that need hope,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence, who argued before the court on Tuesday. “The court’s order is a message of hope for fundamental freedoms in New York City because it means that, for the time being, the city must welcome churches as it does other groups. ADF will continue to fight this battle relentlessly until the city no longer unconstitutionally prohibits activity for purely religious reasons.”

Many New York City churchgoers have been protesting the city’s plans to evict them ever since the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the case on free speech grounds on Dec. 5 of last year. A bill that would compel the city’s Department of Education to allow the worship services passed the state senate this month and is awaiting action by the state assembly.

“This order from the court in no way should stop efforts by the New York Legislature to overturn this policy,” Lorence explained. “The courts have consistently ruled that the Constitution does not require New York City to ban religious worship services, so the city or the state legislature is free to repeal the policy.”

“Now that the courts have spoken up on the side of fairness,” said New York City Council Member Fernando Cabrera. “I call on the New York State Legislature and Speaker Sheldon Silver to move forward with bills that would rapidly solve this issue.” He continued, “This court order is a fantastic victory and will calm the 60 plus congregations that were frantically searching for space. I commend the US District Court for ruling justly.”

38 Responses to “Federal Judge grants churches temporary order against Bloomberg’s ouster of churches from schools. Judge says it is likely that city violated U.S. Constitution on religious freedom” Leave a reply ›

  • Separate those government agencies from directing & dictating the Church...that's the essence of Separation of Church & State.

  • Peace & Blessings All around

    I think we should show the courts how we can make a difference in all of our communities by inviting all of our family and friends who supported the marched across the bridge to a showing of the movie " COURAGEOUS" HONOR BEGINS AT HOME
    It's POWERFUL, HEROIC, ENTERTAINING, AND LIFE CHANGING MOVIE!
    Due to limited space we have invited all the Men of Brentwood, Central Islip & Bay Shore to bring their sons and fathers & freinds out on March 4, 2012 to stand up and be COURAGEOUS as we band together to teach our youth and to let them know that we are here and that we care and that is is our community and that together we will defend it from drug dealers & gang bangers by reaching out to them recently we even heard about officers who were bring in guns and drugs into some communities we all need a place to meet and share a good word with all who are willing to listen.

    I commend all who are commited to the truth by show of faith in action you are an EXCELLENT example to all of us who are in the good struggle!

    Peace & Blessings All Around
    Brother Mohammed Siagha

  • Chaos. Don't you love our system of divided government?

  • Please continue to support this in prayer and action! The churches pay money for renting the space, they improve the neighborhoods they are in by providing FREE services to those in need within the community. By allowing them the ability to RENT THE SPACES, which are EMPTY ON SUNDAY, it's a win, win situation.

  • Re US Court of Appeals panel reversing decision to allow churches back into public schools on Sunda: Wondering can this be the way Federal Courts insert themselves into situations - splitting out who a case (or in this case an injunction) applies to and who it doesn't, and going way beyond permitting the city to impose its policy on all other churches (not just the original plaintif) but now dictating that only the plaintif is to be "not harmed" in the process? Can someone explain this?

  • Praise God for this wise federal judge. Mayor Bloomberg is creating a mess that is to called for at all. He should listen to the Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan, who would strongly oppose him on this one. Odd that conservatives are not going to the White House for support since they would likely find it on this issue.

  • The legal team is the same. It would be good to understand how the opposing legal teams come up with their strategies and adjust them over time.

  • Thanks so much for your last comment. This gives one an idea of how to do some research on this issue.
    Do the churches have a new legal team as well?? i.e., A team that realized the need to focus on a different set of legal issues???

  • As I understand it, the first time around the argument was made upon the basis of freedom of expression. This time the appeal was made on the basis of freedom of religion, specifically the excessive entanglement of the state in religious affairs.

  • Wonderful! I did not know that a district court judge (even a chief judge) could halt an action which an appeals court had allowed. Is it because a new argument was made? The city's plans to immediately rent the vacated spaces has the air of a vendetta.

  • This is a christian country. This is how it should be.

  • Thanks to our Lord.You are Magnificent.Amen

  • Like this too.

  • Like the news!

  • Good news.

  • And how exactly did they make the problem, dear counsel, by existing? A Cause and effect, I see... they existed, and it caused prejudicial treatment. Thanks for explaning. Now I understand human nature better.

  • I like it too.

  • I like this news!

  • Thanks for this update. Thank you Jesus for this victory. Small but still big. In you we put our trust. You are our advocate.

  • God is the one fighting this fight and he will win! Praise the Lord and thanks to all those people there that has been fighting for us to stay in IS 143@515 West 182nd Street, NYC 10033, we will be there this sunday at 2pm, come to praise the lord!

  • Good idea.

  • It would be great to see an article on the city's position on this, the politics, etc. I still for example, don't understand what, who and why brought this about in the first place.
    Thank you.

  • God is good.! let's keep the FAITH God is with US.!

  • I am a part of this Church. This is a Victory in Christ and He alone gets the Glory. Let us pray for our Mayor and not stab him in the back. Even though many of us are upset with him, he is still our Mayor. Give God the Glory, great things HE has done.

  • Thank you Jesus!
    CHRISTIANS 1
    the enemy 0

  • Awesome ... Our God reigns!

  • Great, great news, A Journey. Thanks for your tireless efforts on this. I know that the battle is far from over.

  • Like this!

  • OH THANK GOODNESS, BLOOMBERG SO THAT ONE COMING, I'M SO SICK OF BLOOMBERG, HE ONLY DOES WHAT HE WANTS FOR HIMSELF NOT FOR US. NEXT STOP....STOP THE KINGS BRIDGE ARMORY FROM BECOMING AN OUTLET MALL.....THAT PLACE IS A HISTORICAL SITE, IF HE DOESN'T LIKE THE BRONX HE CAN STAY IN MANHATTAN BUT DON'T TOUCH THE KINGS BRIDGE ARMORY!!!

  • "She found the plaintiffs, Bronx Household of Faith and their pastors, had demonstrated "irreparable harm and a likelihood of success on the merits of their Free Exercise Clause and Establishment Clause claims."

    WOW !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • vote Bloomberg out

  • Thankful!

  • Yeeess!!!!!

  • Thanking God for the injunction against the NYC Board of Ed. allowing churches to continue meeting in schools at least two more Sundays.

  • Like the news.

  • Very good news, praise God!

  • Christ will prevail. Satan will always be fighting and making it difficult for the Christian walk, but God will never be defeated.

  • Yeah! Praise the Lord!

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