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Temperature check: how the crowd outside see the Bloomberg administration

Opponents of the Mayor’s determination to terminate worship services in public school space provided their arguments at a prayer rally outside.

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Photo: True Voices

While Mayor Bloomberg addressed New York City from within Morris High School in the Bronx, opponents of the Mayor’s determination to terminate worship services in public school space provided their arguments at a prayer rally outside.

Supporters of the churches have already rounded up a majority of the city council to support Member Fernando Cabrera’s city resolution to allow religious groups to continue meeting in public school spaces.  Cabrera said on Thursday, “The challenge now is for Speaker Silver and Speaker Skelos to allow the bill to come to the floor, that is the bottom line right now.”  Many people in New York's religious community feel the bill is a protection of religious rights.  Cabrera said, “We're asking for religious equality, the same equalities afforded to us by the Constitution of the United States, the freedom of gathering, freedom of speech, the freedom of religion in public spaces.  That’s the part of it people miss.”

Video from Pastor Michael Carrion under arrest at NYPD's 41st Precinct Station:

Many of the demonstrators outside the high school fear the immediate threat of losing their place of worship.  Members of the Heavenly Vision Christian Center held up signs saying, “Don't make my church homeless.”  The church currently holds Sunday Services at Walton High School in the Kingsbridge area near Lehman College.  The congregants don’t understand why they are being pushed out. Yafraida Encarnacion, a member of the church, said “We don't do anything, but help.”  She thought losing their worship space would also likely impact Pastor Salvador Sabino's highly effective work with gang members in the community. (Sabino is an ex-gang member and has built a network of churches to bring other gangsters out of “the life.”)

State Senator Reuben Diaz, Sr. at a previous rally. Photo: A Journey through NYC religions

While the protesters were largely Hispanic Christians, speakers at the rally point out that the implications of the city’s policy goes much further.  City Council Member David Greenfield said, “It’s a basic matter of fairness and freedom. Regardless of their religious beliefs they should have access to public spaces.” He pointed out that Jews and Muslims also have concerns that religious discrimination will spread to them. Even now, Jews are facing a rash of arson attacks against their organizations in New Jersey.

Bronx State Senator Ruben Diaz, who protested along other members of the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization, argued on the basis of practicality.  He said, “Churches pay, nothing is free, and the city needs the money. We are using the auditorium when the school is not in service, so why the persecution?”

For the last couple of years churches have worked as partners with many city public schools.  Jeremy Del Rio of 20/20 Vision warned that the churches cannot let the conflict with the city government to reduce their focus on the important role that churches are playing in sustaining and improving their communities. “The biggest challenge is that we have reduced the relationship between churches and schools to a landlord tenant relationship.  We're not just tenants in buildings, but were partners in the transformation of our schools.”


Video of Rev. Ralph Castillo talking about 20/20 Vision's and Christ Tabernacle's Operation Backpack for public school children in Queens:

  • Thank you for your comment, Rev. Bonilla.
    What interesting memories you have! Where in NYC did you grow up?

  • Our church "Calvary Christian Fellowship" was without a place to conduct our Sunday service, when a fire broke out from a supermarket that was located below the buiding space that we were utilizing as our church building space. The fire happen on the morning of Veterans Day in 2003. Since then we have been tabernacling with other churches and paying them to use their building space for our Sunday services. Our church was given the opportunity to use PS 14's school auditorium for approximately two years. Today we are still renting space with a wonderful church on White Plains Road in the Bronx; we are close to owning our very own church building in the future.

    There was a Catholic church called Our Lady Queen of Angels that I use to go when I was a student at its Catholic school of the same name next door, that was closed by the New York Catholic Archdiocese's Cardinal Egan. The church was closed in February of 2007 and resulted in the arrest of 6 parishioners who were senior women. This event caused a church devoted Catholic community to be without a church building for Sunday mass services. This is a church building that has been in the community for many decades, and is considered by many a historical fixture of their community. Today, the OLQA Catholic School is still actively open, but its church building next door remains closed to the community around it. Today, many of the dedicated parishioners still conduct their Sunday services outside the closed doors of their former Catholic church building and even a funeral service was conducted outside the closed church for one of its dedicated parishioners who passed away.

    The church who are the God believing and devoted people, are the life blood and back bone of the communities that they live, work and serve in. Without church base buildings for people to worship God, then the statement on our currency that reads; "In God We Trust" dosen't have a prayer and a leg to stand! God help our city, state and our entire country!

  • Great story! God bless you brother!

  • Carlos,

    Not all of the churches opposed the mosque near the World Trade Center site. Don't you think most had divided sentiments: on the one hand, they felt that freedom of religion needed to be respected; and on the other hand, they wondered about whether the motives of the mosque builder were pure?

  • The action of evicting churches is Mayor Bloomberg's payback for the churches stand against his proposal to allow a mosque to be build in downtown Manhattan. I cannot see any other reason

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