March 2012 Church & State | AU Bulletin

The New York City chapter of Americans United has asked city officials to oppose any change in a policy prohibiting religious worship in public schools.

In a Jan. 30 letter to New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, AU N.Y.C. Chapter President Jason Stewart urged opposition to Resolution 1155. The resolution calls on the New York State Assembly to pass Assembly Bill 8800, which would allow religious organizations to hold worship services in public schools outside class hours.

This bill is in direct conflict with the state board of education’s guidelines on school use, according to the letter.

In addition, Stewart notes that the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “recently determined that because this restriction [against worship in public schools] excludes an activity in a neutral manner, it is constitutionally permissible.”

The appeals court held in Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education that preventing religious groups from holding services in public schools is not viewpoint discrimination because “the policy does not exclude religious groups or their religious points of view, expressions, and speech from accessing public schools,” the letter said.

Rather, the letter said, it simply prevents religious organizations from holding services in schools and it does so without discrimination.