Forgot?

Login
Skip to Content

Hunger strike ends, fasting begins. Worship in public school controversy enters new stage on Sunday.

On Sunday protestors from many denominations, races and ethnicities as well as local elected officials will gather at 3:30 pm in Cadman Plaza and march across the Brooklyn Bridge (organizers suggest participants travel on the A train to the High Street stop in Brooklyn).

By Print Preview

Last Sunday, Pastor Dimas Salaberrios of Infinity New York Church in The Bronx ended a 24-day hunger strike—with tuna salad. He said he was both in relief and in pain.

Pastor Dimas leads movement with his hunger strike. With daughter in hand rallies the city.

The pastor intended that his hunger strike would continue until the city changed its plan to evict religious groups from worshiping in public school buildings during the off-hours. However, he started to experience chest pains last weekend. Medical doctors suggested that he was facing grave dangers. “I was pretty much forced to, my heart rate went up,” he said during a telephone interview with A Journey through NYC religions.

The pastor’s hunger strike is one of the many efforts by Christian groups this month to overturn the city government’s policy. One protest resulted in the arrest of 43 pastors and church members during Mayor Bloomberg’s State of the City Address in the Bronx.

On Sunday protestors from many denominations, races and ethnicities as well as local elected officials  will gather at 3:30 pm in Cadman Plaza and march across the Brooklyn Bridge (organizers suggest participants travel on the A train to the High Street stop in Brooklyn). Announced speakers will include the hunger striker Pastor Dimas, Gabriel Salguerro of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, Seungho Yang of the Korean Council of Churches, and Lilian Roberts of Cathedral of Christ Community Ministries.

The outcry is paying off. Councilman Fernando Cabrera, D-Bronx, and State Senator Martin J. Golden, R,C-Brooklyn are leading an effort to withdraw the exemption from free speech rules that New York City schools currently enjoys in state law. This week the NY Senate education committee unanimously passed a bill that would force NYC schools to meet the same free speech standards that schools in the rest of the state are required to meet. Current law allows any NYC community education board to deny usages of schools and school grounds even if it contradicts the free speech provisions of state law. The amendments to the state education law specifically mention that the state’s free speech standards for public schools include the freedom to conduct worship services. Next, the legislation next must meet a vote by the full Senate and the Assembly.

Leaders of the movement are continuing to press for reform of NYC government’s new policy against churches use of public schools for worship services on the off- hours. Now that Pastor Dimas has ended, for health reasons, his attention-getting hunger strike, protest leaders say that the movement will start to emphasize their love for the city and its freedoms through fasting and prayer.

Pastor William Devlin of Manhattan Bible Church in Inwood Heights, is leading the church protestors in fasting. Devlin, who is a co-organizer of the protests, entered the tenth day of his fast last night at 9 pm. Drinking only water, Devlin is now experiencing sleeplessness and “mental fuzziness.” However, as a veteran of fasting, he is prepared to receive regular check-ups from Jeffrey Bado, a doctor specializing in internal medicine.

His reasons for a fast and not a hunger strike are rooted in a theological and political understanding that sees the protest movement as entering a reflective, long-term phase.

Pastor Bill Devlin of Manhattan Bible Church at a prayer rally

He takes inspiration from British devotional works like God’s Chosen Fast by Arthur Wallis and The Intercessor by Norman Grubb. The pastor says, “Fasting changes the world—and it changes me.” He gives four reasons for fasting: to support Pastor Dimas’ example; a demonstration of city-wide solidarity on this issue; spiritual discipline; and to honor God.

Pastor Dimas’ influence on the movement is unmistakable. Devlin says, “I think it's important to advance Pastor Dimas' original vision.” However, there is an interesting evolution of the movement’s reasoning as represented by a change from a hunger strike to a fast.

Hunger striking is a confrontational approach rooted in union strikes and political conflicts. Fasting is rooted in religious devotion to limiting one’s anger and promoting one’s ability to love and show compassion.

Pastor Dimas fashioned his hunger strike as a very public demonstration of his sorrow for the religious groups who are due to be kicked out of the schools on February 12th. The hunger strike got the attention of religious people around the world. Now, the movement wants to knit together the disparate groups into one united movement. Devlin says his and other protestors’ fast is a call for spiritual unity. “From a personal perspective, I receive more of God's power here on Earth [when fasting]. I want to stay focused [on] that this is a fast.”

Devlin takes his inspiration from the Jewish scriptures, particularly the Book of Esther. This story is well-known as the inspiration of the Jewish holiday of Purim. The book depicts the story of Queen Esther who called for a fast of solidarity to prevent a plot to slaughter the Jews in Persia. Devlin believes the fast of Esther indicates that a fast strengthens people’s hearts and their link to God. It appears that the movement is uniting its forces and preparing for a long battle.

Pastor Dimas and Devlin are busy working on the next big event, a mass march across the Brooklyn Bridge. Over 1,000 people are expected to attend. But what does this prayer march really hope to achieve?

According to Pastor Devlin, there are two objectives for the event: to pray that hearts and minds of  influential people will be changed; and to see that God's people worship together in unity. It is a message of both activism and spiritual development.

When A Journey through NYC religions asked how many people are confirmed for police detainment this Sunday, he replied, “We believe that part of our strategy is complete. No one will be arrested.” But the pastor says that this stage of the protest will emphasize their love for the city. He hopes that this is one demonstration that will cause city hearts to feel the love and be changed.

15 Responses to “Hunger strike ends, fasting begins. Worship in public school controversy enters new stage on Sunday.” Leave a reply ›

  • Thanks to the great work they is doing with A Journey through NYC religions and for their latest report on the efforts of pastors and churches to continue renting space for services from the public schools. Mayor Bloomberg and his administration have said that they will stop this practice.

  • Thank you for this informative article on two points: 1) that the ability of NYC to exclude worship services is actually based on an exemption from state law (it would be interesting to understand how that came about) and 2) the explanation of difference between a hunger strike and fasting, and the thoughtful elaboration on the latter.

  • S6087A-2011: Authorizes the use of school buildings and school sites for religious meetings and worship when not in use for school purposes

    Authorizes the use of school buildings and school sites for religious meetings and worship when not in use for school purposes or when such service or worship is deemed not disruptive of normal school operations.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Sponsor: GOLDEN
    Law Section: Education Law / Law: Amd S414, Ed L
    S6087A-2011 Actions
    Jan 24, 2012: 1ST REPORT CAL.126
    Jan 13, 2012: PRINT NUMBER 6087A
    Jan 13, 2012: AMEND AND RECOMMIT TO EDUCATION
    Jan 4, 2012: REFERRED TO EDUCATION
    Education: Jan 24, 2012
    Floor Calendar: Jan 30, 2012

    VOTE: COMMITTEE VOTE: - Education - Jan 24, 2012

    Ayes (11): Flanagan, Farley, Lanza, Marcellino, Maziarz, Ranzenhofer, Robach, Seward, Addabbo, Avella, Huntley
    Ayes W/R (6): LaValle, Saland, Oppenheimer, Breslin, Serrano, Stavisky
    Nays (1): Montgomery

    S6087A-2011 Memo
    REVISED 01/27/12

    TITLE OF BILL:
    An act to amend the education law, in relation to authorizing religious
    meetings and worship in school buildings and school sites

    PURPOSE:
    The purpose of the bill is to authorize the use of school buildings
    and school sites for religious meetings and worship when not in use
    for school purposes.

    SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
    Section 1 amends the opening paragraph and paragraph (c) of
    subdivision 1 of section 414 of the education law, the opening
    paragraph as amended by chapter 369 of the laws of 1977 and paragraph
    (c) as amended by chapter 345 of the laws of 2009, are amended to
    include:

    The City of New York and community school boards and;

    A provision that prohibits the adoption of restrictions to exclude or
    limit speech, during non-school hours, including speech that
    expresses religious conduct or viewpoints.

    JUSTIFICATION:
    This bill would prevent school districts from excluding groups from
    meeting on school property because of the religious content or
    viewpoint of their speech, including allowing religious worship
    services.

    Currently, State Education Law allows for social, civic and
    recreational meetings and entertainment on school property, as well
    as other uses pertaining to the welfare of the community. State law
    further holds that such meetings, entertainment and uses shall be
    nonexclusive and shall be open to the general public. However,
    certain groups or organizations are not always allowed to hold the
    types of meetings seemingly envisioned herein, including those with
    religious content or viewpoints.

    For example, several years ago, a U.S. Appeals Court ruled that the
    Bronx Household of Faith church ("Bronx Household") ( based in New
    York city, was not permitted to use space in a Bronx public middle
    school for its Sunday morning worship service. Since then, however,
    the United States Supreme Court ruled in Good News Club vs. Milford central
    School that it was unconstitutional for a public school district in
    upstate New York to exclude from its facilities "a private Christian
    organization for children, and the Supreme Court further held in the
    Good News Club case that "by denying the club access to the school's
    limited public forum on the ground that the club was religious in
    nature, Milford discriminated against the club because of its
    religious viewpoint in violation of the free speech clause.

    In light of Milford, Bronx Household re-petitioned the U.S. appeals
    court, which again upheld the school's policy banning the use of its
    space for religious worship services, reasoning that "While the
    conduct of religious services undoubtedly includes expressions of a
    religious point of view, it is not the expression of that point of
    view that is prohibited by the rule.
    Prayer, religious expression of devotion to God, and the singing of
    hymns, whether done by a person or group, do not constitute the
    conduct of worship services. These activities are not excluded".
    Groups like Bronx Household should be allowed to hold and conduct
    such meetings, even in the event that such meetings include religious
    content or views in their speech, so long as these meetings are open
    to the general public. Some school districts have excluded groups and
    have thereby acted to regulate free speech and the conduct of such
    members of the public, potentially in violation of the First
    Amendment to the Constitution of the united States. This bill seeks
    to protect such organizations from these actions.

    EFFECTIVE DATE:
    This act shall take effect immediately.

    S6087A-2011 Text
    S T A T E O F N E W Y O R K

    Introduced by Sens. GOLDEN, DeFRANCISCO, DIAZ, GALLIVAN, GRIFFO, GRISAN
    TI, KENNEDY, LANZA, LIBOUS, MAZIARZ, O'MARA, RIVERA, SAMPSON, SMITH,
    ZELDIN -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be
    committed to the Committee on Education -- committee discharged, bill
    amended, ordered reprinted as amended and recommitted to said commit
    tee AN ACT to amend the education law, in relation to authorizing religious
    meetings and worship in school buildings and school sites
    THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM
    BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

    EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
    [ ] is old law to be omitted.

    Section 1. The opening paragraph and paragraph (c) of subdivision 1 of
    section 414 of the education law, the opening paragraph as amended by
    chapter 369 of the laws of 1977 and paragraph (c) as amended by chapter
    345 of the laws of 2009, are amended and a new subdivision 3 is added to
    read as follows:

    Schoolhouses and the grounds connected therewith and all property
    belonging to the district shall be in the custody and under the control
    and supervision of the trustees or board of education of the district.
    The trustees or board of education, OR IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK THE
    COMMUNITY SCHOOL BOARD, may adopt reasonable regulations for the use of
    such schoolhouses, grounds or other property, all portions thereof, when
    not in use for school purposes or when the school is in use for school
    purposes if in the opinion of the trustees or board of education use
    will not be disruptive of normal school operations, for such other
    public purposes as are herein provided.

    [DELETE: ; except, however, in the city of New York each community school
    board shall be authorized to prohibit any use of schoolhouses and
    school grounds within its district which would otherwise be permitted
    under the provisions of this section].

    Such regulations shall provide for the safety and security of the pupils and
    shall not conflict with the provisions of this chapter and shall conform
    to the purposes and intent of this section and shall be subject to
    review on appeal to the commissioner of education as provided by law.
    The trustees or board of education of each district may, subject to
    regulations adopted as above provided, permit the use of the schoolhouse
    and rooms therein, and the grounds and other property of the district,
    when not in use for school purposes or when the school is in use for
    school purposes if in the opinion of the trustees or board of education
    use will not be disruptive of normal school operations, for any of the
    following purposes:

    (c) For holding social, civic, RELIGIOUS and recreational meetings and
    entertainments, and other uses pertaining to the welfare of the communi
    ty; but such meetings, entertainment and uses shall be non-exclusive and
    shall be open to the general public. Civic meetings shall include, but
    not be limited to, meetings of parent associations and parent-teacher
    associations.

    3. NOTHING IN THIS SECTION SHALL AUTHORIZE THE TRUSTEES OR BOARD OF
    EDUCATION OF THE DISTRICT TO ADOPT OR INTERPRET REGULATIONS FOR THE USE
    OF SCHOOLHOUSES, GROUNDS OR OTHER PROPERTY, PURSUANT TO SUBDIVISION ONE
    OF THIS SECTION, THAT WOULD RESULT IN THE EXCLUSION OR LIMITATION OF
    SPEECH, DURING NON SCHOOL HOURS, EVEN WHERE STUDENTS MAY BE PRESENT,
    INCLUDING SPEECH THAT EXPRESSES RELIGIOUS CONDUCT OR DISCUSSES SUBJECTS
    FROM A RELIGIOUS VIEWPOINT.

    S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.

  • Unable to afford to build or buy their own facilities in which to meet, the multiethnic faith-community of NYC is rising up in peaceful ways. Fasting may be deeper than a hunger strike...

  • Go NYC !!! ;-}

  • OK PEOPLE WE NEED EVERYBODY WHO CAN, COME OUT TO SUPPORT THIS EFFORT!! THIS IS "NOT" JUST A MARCH FOR CHRISTIANS!!! IT IS A MARCH TO ENSURE THE RIGHT RENT A PLACE TO WORSHIP IN PUBLIC SPACES!!! MEET ME THERE AT CADMAN PLAZA WHERE WE WILL MARCH ACROSS THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE TO CITY HALL FOR OUR RIGHT TO WORSHIP!!

  • I like this.

  • I like this too.

  • We like this.

  • I like this article.

  • I like this article.

    GOD WE NEED YOUR HELP
    HELP US TO HELP OTHERS
    GOD BLESS AMEN

  • Good article.

Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>