New York City defends policy blocking churches from public school rentals

Posted: Friday, November 08, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) -- A lawyer for New York City warned a federal appeals court Monday that churches would move permanently into public schools if a Bronx church wins its eight-year fight to rent a middle school near Yankee Stadium for services.

''These are not temporary situations,'' city lawyer Jane Gordon told the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. ''Other churches in the city can now go in and become permanent parts of city schools.''

Such school rentals are commonplace in many parts of the nation.

Gordon said a federal district judge went too far in a June decision that said, under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the Bronx Household of Faith could use the school.

Church attorney Jordan Lorence contended that the Constitution ''clearly protects against government limiting speech'' so it would be illegal to bar a religious group when the city allows a wide spectrum of other activities in schools.

Gordon said the city has always barred school rentals for religious worship, partisan political activities or private ceremonies such as weddings. He argued that the Supreme Court's ''equal access'' ruling ''does not compel school boards to meet every demand a religious organization may make.''



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