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Federal judge gives NYC Board of Education lawyers a history lesson. Churches win right to worship in public schools.

The long legal remedial education of the school board probably isn’t over. The city lawyers will likely try to find new ways to continue this legal fight.

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A federal court ruled that the NYC public school board's attempt to oust religious groups from worshiping in the public schools was based on bad history and "scant evidence." The judge said the Board of Education's policy was "not neutral" on religion for no compelling reason to be otherwise and was attempting to make itself the arbiter of acceptable theological practices and beliefs among groups applying to rent the public schools in the off-hours.

On behalf of the churches, Alliance Defense Fund's Chief Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence expressed that he was puzzled that the city government would waste so much of taxpayers' money in a decade and half fight against the churches. "There is no reason to exclude worship services from these empty school buildings, especially when the school allows all other community groups to meet. Why exclude churches that are helping their neighbors in so many signficant ways?," the lawyer asked.

Chief Judge Loretta Preska of the United States Southern District Court of New York issued a thorough fifty-nine page rebuff of the Board of Education's lawyers. She noted that the case, which specifically involves the Bronx Household of Faith and its pastors Robert Hall and Jack Roberts, dates back to 1995 when the congregation and public schools first clashed. The church "is a 37-year-old, 'community-based' Christian church," the judge wrote. It "has used the school auditorium in P.S. 15 in the Bronx, New York, on a weekly basis since 2002 for purposes of holding its Sunday worship services." In 2002 the judge issued an order that prohibited the public schools from barring Household of Faith from renting public school space for worship services. The ruling gave all religious groups the right to rent public school space in the off-hours on the same basis as other community groups.

The judge noted that in "the uniquely expensive and crowded real estate market" that churches as well as other community groups rely on the public schools as an important way to start up their operations and continue them while they grow and look for space. The public schools received 122,874 applications for space in 2011. Close to ninety-five percent of the applications are from community-based organizations that are not religious. Most of the religious congregations that met in the Board's schools in 2005 moved to other space after they were able to do so.

However, last year the city public school lawyers renewed the fight.

The judge gave a history lesson to the Board of Education. "Here history suggests that the Framers would not have given much credence" to the Board of Education's fears about worship services in a school establishing a state religion. The judge quoted a brief from the Beckett Fund in her opinion, "President Washington permitted religious groups to conduct worship services in the U.S. Capitol building as early as 1795. President Jefferson, whose devotion to church-state separation cannot be questioned, regularly attended services in the Capitol throughout his presidency, and allowed worship services in the Treasury and War Office buildings as well. Even the Supreme Court chamber was occasionally used for worship services."

The judge noted that the Board of Education lawyers were very sketchy in their history of legal precedent for their actions against the churches. "[I]t is unsurprising that Defendants cite no which a court has struck down a public school board's policy of permitting religious worship during non-school hours as violative of the Establishment clause."

The long legal remedial education of the school board probably isn’t over. The city lawyers will likely try to find new ways to   continue this legal fight. The church's lawyer Lorence looked toward further litigation, “ADF will continue to defend this constitutionally protected right if the city chooses to continue using taxpayer money to evict the very groups that are selflessly helping the city’s communities, including the public schools themselves.”


For fastest news join us on Twitter and Facebook! Our subscribers found out first about the fifty-nine page legal decision, which was published shortly after 10:00 am. A Journey through NYC religions will continue roll out an analysis of the ruling and subsequent developments.


  • The churches are always worth fighting for b/c they are the backbone of communities in NYC, particularly for the poor and needy. It's exciting to see that Judge Preska evoked George Washington and gave a history lesson to the adversary that wanted to close down churches in schools. We all need to continue to pray that it doesn't get appealed.

  • We prayed and God answered !
    His will was done...praise God. Why are we surprised?!

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  • Thumbs up!

  • I like this too.

  • Thanks to the people that make the news!

  • Thank you. Your reporting great once again.

  • Like it!

  • Like the article.

  • Great.

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  • Also like this.

  • Like this, thanks.

  • Thanks for sharing this news. It is encouraging. Matthew28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

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  • Yes!

  • Glory to God !

  • Amen, goes to show you God is the greatest judge, lawyer & district attorney

  • AMEN

  • Here is the website for the US District Court, Southern District of New York. The ruling by Judge Preska is the top one in the box on the right, "Rulings of Special Interest."

  • Yes and Amen

  • I praise the work of God with you!

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  • Amen!

  • Los apoyare en Oración!!

  • Heard about this arduous struggle when I was recently in NYC. So happy to hear the good news! Thanks for the report!

  • Humbling that we can cover people who love this city.

  • Thank you for doing such a great job of keeping track and reporting on the battle with NYC. You are a blessing and a NYC treasure. I appreciate your friendship and all you do. Blessings, Pastor Rick

  • Today is a day of victory for religious freedom and religious liberty in the City of New York.

    Houses of worship of all faiths can now breathe a sigh of relief due to today's ruling by Federal Judge Loretta Preska granting a Permanent Injunction against the NYC Department of Education's draconian, repressive, discriminatory policy of banning only houses of worship from renting space in public school buildings.

    I join with my Right To Worship co-chair Councilperson Fernando Cabrera, over 37 progressive members of NY City Council, 55 members of the NY State Senate, over 80 Democratic & Republican members of the NY State Assembly, previously evicted Faith Leaders and all New Yorkers who value religious freedom in thanking Federal Judge Preska and all others in New York City who love our City and who love religious freedom-Thank you!

  • Thanks to the work at Journey through NYC Religions for this and many other reports. **

  • Like this. Let my friends know.

  • "Praise God. Thank you all for your prayers..."

  • "awesome victory! God is so faithful!!"

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  • Another great report. Thanks for keeping us all up-to-date on the "saga in New York City" !!

    May God continue to bless your very impressive work - "visited over 50 faith sites in Harlem yesterday" - Amazing !!! - John

  • "Sometimes they get it right!"

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