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Towards the end of tonight's discussion, a viewer raised an interesting point about allowing religious services in empty public school buildings. Right now, most of these organizations are Christians wanting the space on Sundays. But how will New Yorkers react when Muslims want the space to worship? Does that change your opinion on whether it's appropriate? It probably does for some.
The City's Law Department vowed today to appeal another high-profile loss in court. A federal judge issued a decision prohibiting the Department of Education from barring religious organizations from using school buildings for worship during non-school hours.
The Department of Education had maintained the government should not give the appearance of endorsing any religion. It evicted houses of worship earlier this year after a lengthy court battle, forcing small congregations to pay higher market rents elsewhere.
A spokesman for the group "Right To Worship" said the decision saves religious groups from the City's "draconian, repressive, discriminatory policy." But a spokesman for the City's Law Department argued the decision undermines "legitimate concerns about appearing to endorse religion." What do you say?
What's your reaction to the judge's decision? Should houses of worship be able to use public school buildings for services during non-school hours? How frequently do you see examples of the merging of "church and state?"
Send your thoughts using the link above.
I am a pastor and find it interesting that with all of the underutilized churches buildings in NYC we have congregations renting space in public buildings. If they really wanted to do something positive they should form partnership and rent spaces from congregations that have available space. It is easy to rent space and not have to worry about the heat or AC working or the sidewalk shoveled of snow or a leaky roof; if you really want to see committed Christians go to a congregation that has a building and is trying to keep it open. They need to be out of the NYC Public Schools now, and never mind this reduced rent they are paying. The mayor is right.
There are many non religious U.S. Citizens who pay taxes. It’s not fair that their tax money goes help pay for the Free Ride the tax-exempt religious organizations get under U.S. Law, regardless of which religion it is. Our tax money pays for the entire U.S. infrastructure which they all use for free. How, under any logic, could that be fair?
Ironically, the Christian Bible clearly directs Christian Churches to pay taxes.
It's just a matter of time before the Hindus, Muslims and Budhists want access as well.
I would like to see less church and less politicians in schools.
I have no problem with any religious groups using public schools when they're not in session, just as any secular organization would, providing that no particular religious group is excluded, and that they pay for the usage and maintenance.
Park Slope, Brooklyn
Everyone likes to call themselves as Christians but doesn't care about the Word of God. Of course religious groups should use the facilities and speak the Word of God. Also we are complaining about bad things happening in schools but we don't want to admit is since the word of God was removed from the schools and anyway is time to start doing something positive abut this.
As a retired administrator in the DOE,I don't like the use of the building by churches or community groups. They do not maintain the cleanliness of the building. They often leave literature and instruments. When the school week began, I had to spend time contacting folks to clean and remove materials. Annoying and time consuming!
K from Hollis
We really need to try harder to keep church and state separate. Doing so does not mean lack of morals, it means morality through truth and fairness, not dogma and indoctrination.
Michael from Clinton Hill Brooklyn.
The school is just a building when school is out of session. It's a business transaction, that's all. Let whoever wants to rent it, rent it.
I don't understand how allowing religious institutions access to the schools constitutes an endorsement -- religious institutions have the same opportunity to rent the facilities as everyone else. Atheists, non-believers, and other non-religious groups can use the schools during non-school hours.
The argument that it is offensive to taxpayers is silly -- everyone's taxes are used to pay for services and properties that may not align with their personal beliefs.
Upper East Side
Here it is in a nut-shell. Everyone keeps assuming that the groups will all be Christian and then stating their opinions based on that. The problems that I foresee arising stem from the equality we must surely extend to ALL religious groups and the fact that, unfortunately, a lot of people are fearful of religions other than their own.
When the groups convene at schools on Friday evenings, with their different dress and manners, then it perhaps might be an ugly face that we show the world, one that I would rather not see.
It is very apparent to me that we are not as tolerant a society as I wish and maybe we should best hold more classes in the schools during off hours and perhaps one thing we can do a better job of teaching, is about the sanctity of every person's belief system.
This is not a subject for a vote by members of the public.No problem with church renting space in a school to hold a meeting; but big problem for a church (or any religious group) to hold religious services in a public school or any public space. Our so-called "christianized" founders erected a clear boundary to prevent this type of encroachment.
By conducting a "snap-poll" on Channel 1, you are giving the question a pseudo legality and reality it doesn't deserve. Most Americans own a bible; precious few own a copy of the Constitution of the United States. You could editorialize on the meaning of Article I. Doing a poll is unworthy. NY 1 should know better.
I feel we cannot wave our stance on separation of church and state because of a recession -to make a profit as some people are recommending. There are plenty places of worship and schools are just as sacred. Public schools are not allowed to teach about Christmas or celebrate Easter for this very reason. Furthermore, Public taxes are paying to support these buildings. I find it offensive as a tax payer and supporter of the public school system.
Christian values are the seeds that established our country and values America will be restored when we respect this values, established by our founding fathers..
I bet ya that if Goldman Sachs wanted to hold religious services to worship the Almighty Dollar on public school property, Bloomberg would have no problem with that whatsoever!
Personally I don’t believe it’s harmful to temporarily rent out space to religious services while there are no school classes or activities in session. The City can use the money, and it’s helping to strengthen community ties.
As to the Senator’s statements on the School being a “defacto” church, and the church looking to recruit/convert new members through the school… Well that is his opinion, but I’m positive it’s based on conjecture, ignorance and fear, rather than fact.
No religions should be subsidized with tax dollars through use of school facilities or any other way- Kind of basic to the American experiment
WE HAVE TO PROTECT OUR COUNTRY FROM THOSE WANNA-BEES USA CITIZENS WHO HAVE THEIR WAY OF MEETING AND SCHEDULING CLANDESTIN ADVICE, THEIR MEMBERS SHOULD BE KEPT ON A ‘NEED-TO-KNOW BASIS.
House of Worship should be able to use school buildings during off hours. Only people who are interested in going will go. It has no influence on the children who go to that school since children do not attend the school during those hours of worship. A school close by had two different worships on Sunday using two separate entrances and there was no problems during worship.
Whether allowing religious groups to rent schools and other public property violates the Constitution's Establishment Clause, or whether the City's restrictions on such use violates the Free Exercise Clause, are legal questions to be decided by the courts. In this case, a district court has ruled, the City is appealing, and everyone will have to live with whatever appellate decisions emerge.
And where does one draw the line on what constitutes religious use? Would a 12-step program reciting the Serenity Prayer be the equivalent of a church group holding a mass or religious service? Would a Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa party open to the entire community be considered a denominational religious activity? And is holding a religious ceremony in a rented school on a weekend any different from holding such activities in a public park or on the beach under an activity permit?
The proper venue for these decisions is the courts, not the City's Law Department, so let the courts decide.
Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn
Houses of worship can now be allowed to worship in schools after hours. The city vows to appeal the decision which allows such groups to worship in city schools. I say," Bravo." If no school is in progress and no students are in class, who does it hurt. Added the fact the city needs the money to provide services that aid education. These church groups also provide services that aid the community and try to get help for troubled young people. In my book it is a win, win situation for the city. The Department of Education needs to wake up and smell the coffee. Faith and education can work hand in hand.
Glen Oaks Village, N.Y.
The City is giving its own interpretation to the first half of the amendment clause concerning not "respecting an establishment of religion", while violating the second part which states that government can not prohibit "the free exercise thereof." Religious groups should not be discriminated against in their renting of public school space after school hours.
The city should learn a lesson from public and private colleges and universities where it is common for religious clubs of different faiths to gather and hold religious functions within their campuses.
Oh boy, another lawsuit bought by the Mayor and his regime against the citizens. I am not religious by any stretch of the imagination and believe in the separation of church and state as it applies to issues that govern the population as a whole. This just seems like more of the Mayor wanting everything his way, and to hell with what the community wants. I would guess that the organizations using these schools off hours are based in the community and the people involved are from said community. If these people are there of their own free will and not doing anything harmful then why not let them use an empty, public space? With all the rhetoric about taxpayers money being used to pay teachers and other awful things, then why can't taxpayers use an empty facility that their tax dollars pay for? I bet if one of the Wall Street backed charter schools wanted to use that space for some undisclosed reason nothing would be said, what about the separation of Wall Street and State? And again along with his crusade against the teachers union how much is this court case going to cause taxpayers, who probably would rather the money be spent anywhere else to benefit people.
The court has ruled on this -- the fact that the city is continuing to litigate the matter indicates that someone in a position of authority has some kind of obsession with this issue. Perhaps that official. whoever it might be, should pay for the continued litigation out of their own pocket, rather than have the public and the Corporation Counsel continue to carry on this battle.
Upper West Side
As a secular who was once a christian way back when they practiced what they preached along with the beatitudes (unlike today), I think Im bored with Dept of Ed. Why are religious groups treated disparately because of political correctness? The Dept of Ed is clueless and pretentious. Have the lawyers post signs that disclaim any affiliation with the religion. Church and state are one according to the GOP and the Catholic Church.
I would like to know how long this has been going on? The reason I ask is if this mayor is in charge of the public school system how and who where the ones to decide on a price for the rental of the venue.
This issue, this conflict will never be resolved until schools are removed from government and union control. If schools were privately owned, then a contract allowing religions to rent school property or vice versa could be drawn without conflict. If parents didn’t like one arrangement or the other, their children could go to a different school.
Privatize all schools.
Port Richmond, SI
I remember that when I was in school in the 1950`s , one of the teacher`s would read us a passage from the bible at assembly. I always felt uncomfortable, because I am Jewish. I also remember that children were released for religious instruction. Back in the 50`s it seemed as though the school endorsed Christianity. I could be wrong, but that is how I felt.
Rosalie from Brooklyn.
Christians churches in School are providing a great service to the community, by teaching families to love respect one another and honor their parents, friends and neigbors. Being in Church on Sundays is better than being in the streets or on the corners selling lose cigarettes or drugs, getting high, smoking pot and drinking beer. The churches provide a place of learning about faith in God. We help the community with food to the needy, we do coats drives and help the community come together. Without this service there will be more crime in the same neigborhood, more teenage on teenage violets and Cops doing more frisk on Sundays.
Patricio from Harlem