Without comment the U.S. Supreme Court this morning denied the petition of the Bronx Household of Faith to consider overturning a lower court ruling that upheld the policy banning rental of worship space from the New York City public schools. Mayor Bill de Blasio has previously said that he was not in favor of preventing the churches from renting space in the public schools on the off-hours. He has left unclear whether in the future he will support the rental of space in the public schools specifically for worship.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office released a statement that religious groups can continue for now to have access to public school facilities for worship services, including for Passover, Good Friday and Easter services, despite the decision.
After the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, Chancellor’s Regulation D-180, section 1-Q, a Department of Education rule that bans worship services, went immediately into effect. The regulations states, "No permit shall be granted for the purpose of holding religious worship services, or otherwise using a school as a house of worship."
If the faith-based groups will be able to obtain space for worship services in the future, the rules will have to be re-written.
In the statement, de Blasio spokesman Wiley Norvell said the administration “remains committed to ensuring that religious organizations are able to use space in City schools on the same terms provided to other groups.”
“Now that litigation has concluded, the City will develop ‘rules of the road’ that respect the rights of both religious groups and non-participants,” the mayor's spokesman said.
However, the statement did not say if the new rules will allow access to public school space for worship services. Up until now, the mayor has consistently hedged against explicitly saying that city will allow such rentals in the future. City officials have repeatedly declined to say what will happen to the "worship services" ban.
City Hall officials have claimed that the hedge was in order to gain assurance from the U.S. Supreme Court that city will have the right to set its own rules for use of the public school space in the off-hours. Norvell's statement that the city defended the Bloomberg-era rule "to preserve its prerogative to issue rules governing the use of public school facilities after hours by various groups, including faith-based organizations."