Churches Out of Schools

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

After the Supreme Court let stand a ruling that the NYC Department of Education would not be discriminating if they prohibited renting space for worship services, several area congregations are scrambling to find alternative space. New York City Council Member Fernando Cabrera (D, Bronx 14), founder of the New Life Outreach International church, and Matt Brown, organizing pastor of Park Slope Presbyterian Church, which is now holding Sunday morning services at John Jay High School, discuss the issue.


Fernando Cabrera and Matt Brown

Comments [63]

I live on the UES and my polling place is a church on 75th St. I have always been slightly irritated by this, especially the fact that they use every election day to have a big bake sale at the entrance to the site to benefit the church. Their kids come up to you and ask for donations to help their church's school. I would really appreciate a segment about polling sites and an explanation of why this is okay.

Dec. 18 2011 07:29 PM
US needs PUBLIC public spaces!

The U.S. needs PUBLIC public spaces!

This is particularly the case in NYC.

If you OWN a space, you have the RIGHT to use it - even in the middle of the night.
Same if you Rent a space.

Public space SHOULD BE OWNED by
THE PUBLIC. It should be accessable
WANT TO USE IT - not only if they have
the money, lawyers and connections to get
a permit, and then only if people at the top
like them enough not to come up with an excuse to get rid of them.


This is essential to the RIGHT of Peaceful
assembly, otherwise, this means
ONLY people who are WEALTHY enough
to buy or rent a space actually have the

NYC and the US needs REAL PUBLIC
public spaces.

Dec. 07 2011 11:52 PM
Joyce from The Bronx, NY

Glad Tidings in The Bronx is a church and a voting place.

In my years at DOE, I have yet to see a confused student (middle or high school) about a church using their school on a Sunday, considering most kids, unless attending that church won't be anywhere near the school on a Sunday. It is hard enough getting them in Monday to Friday.

If the school can rent their space and the church/house of worship can pay the rent, why would the Department of Education not take the opportunity to make some money. After all, they are constantly threatening to fire teachers due to budget cuts.

Dec. 07 2011 06:54 PM
tom LI

Lots of talk about the state support of religion in this issue...

Are not we all supporting religious orgs thru their tax free status? Why do religious beliefs get this pass..? Why cant the opposite, the non-belief get the same pass...?

Dec. 07 2011 06:50 PM

My local polling place -- the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, on 86th street between Broadway and West End.

Dec. 07 2011 03:16 PM

The rental of a building for a few hours on a non-school day does not consecrate the building or confuse the students.With a simple explanation from a parent, any first grader can understand that. Jeffm is correct.

Dec. 07 2011 12:04 PM
tom from manhattan

putting any or many religious groups into state-owned venues schools, etc., says in effect that religion itself has validity. the state can't say that; the state must stay neutral. have a belief? that's your choice, support it but don't ask me to if i don't; don’t ask the state either. in history the violence generated by religious groups has been hugely destructive it is best to keep the reins of state away from religious precepts as much as possible.

Dec. 07 2011 11:57 AM

Brian, The woman who called in to say that voting takes place in churches is correct. The Bethel Baptist Church on Bergen Street is a polling place. And 10 years ago, when I used to live in South Riverdale, I voted in St. Gabriel's. Your caller wanting the polling out of churches. However, my question is why I can't go across the street to vote at Bethel Baptist and have to walk two blocks to a nearby public school.

Dec. 07 2011 11:56 AM

Jeffm, #3 - you are wrong. Just because you say it is so, does not make it so. Stop acting like god.

Dec. 07 2011 11:48 AM

1) Churches pay rent, which benefits the schools.
2) Church members pay taxes into their communities just like everyone else.
3) The church members are also members of the community and have its interest in mind.
3) Renting space is not "establishment of religion". (goood grief, really people??)
4) As long as the rental program is open to all, fair, equitable, beneficial to the school, and serves the community, who cares?

Dec. 07 2011 11:42 AM
tom from manhattan

religious enterprises go to non state-owned venues -- why is that so hard for them to do. there are many places wanting tenants. i wonder if they want to confuse the issue of what is "official" and what is not on purpose.

Dec. 07 2011 11:31 AM

Mylk, you need to go back and read the constitution. It says nothing about "separation". It speaks about "establishing" any one religion. God would be in regard to hundreds of different religions. That doesn't establish any one, but I agree that I wish they'd remove it, since it was added so late in our country's development.

Dec. 07 2011 11:30 AM
Tom P from Fanwood, NJ

I vote in a church in NJ.

I do not see the issue with renting space for worship services so long as school is not in session. As long as the space is available to all, I do not see a discrimination issue.

Dec. 07 2011 11:27 AM

In my town (Cold Spring) we vote in the Methodist Church.

Dec. 07 2011 11:26 AM

Sheldon, flea markets are not addressed in the constitution. Establishing religion is!

Dec. 07 2011 11:26 AM

I am not comfortable with Church of the Holy redeemer renting space on the weekends at Hunter College, where I teach. It feels like an endorsement of a particular religion to me. And I feel uncomfortable being surrounded by church goers. I am not Christian. I feel somewhat alienated at the very institution where I'm employed teaching humanist intellectual inquiry.

Dec. 07 2011 11:26 AM
mykl3000 from nyc

If Church & State are separate then perhaps the US should remove 'In God We Trust' from the currency, and politicians should NOT be using the word 'GOD' in their speeches. Remove ' help me God' from the courts and maybe one day we'll have all religious symbols (like crucifixes & stars of David) removed from the buildings least they offend public eyes.

Dec. 07 2011 11:26 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Well said Francyne - "Amen"

Dec. 07 2011 11:26 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

So...upholding the constitution is equivilent to legislating according to "what 7 year olds think?"

There should be NO church services in ANY public school, period, end of story!!!

Dec. 07 2011 11:26 AM
Mildred Ehrlich from Manhattan

For Sunday worship services, Redeemer Presbyterian Church uses the auditorium at Hunter College of CUNY, the City University of NY. I have always felt odd about that.

Dec. 07 2011 11:26 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

How come Brian doesn't know that many polling places are in churches? C'mon Brian WAKE-UP!

Dec. 07 2011 11:25 AM
John Cauman from Manhattan

The Church of St. Anthony of Padua, at 154 Sullivan Street, Manhattan, is a polling place.

Dec. 07 2011 11:25 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Susan - you are plain wrong. New York is not Cuba, If schools are allowed to rent space to flea markets, they shouldn't discrimminate against religious groups or communist parties.

Dec. 07 2011 11:25 AM
francyne from Pelham Bay Park

I'm a lifelong atheist who has no objection to any religion renting a public school during non-school hours. As long as they don't leave any religious propaganda behind and the school does not announce the services to the students, I'm okay with it.

I vote in the parish hall of the Greek Orthodox Church around the corner.

Dec. 07 2011 11:25 AM
Beth Ganz

I live on East End Avenue and I just received a mailing from the city telling us that our new poling place is St Stephen's of Hungry, not at the local public school as it has been for many years. So we do vote in Churches.

Dec. 07 2011 11:24 AM

In response to the caller on polling places in churches, my neighborhood polling place is in a nearby church. I have no problem with it. It's in a convenient location and the polls are placed in what looks like a rec or gathering room of the church. It's not overtly religious.

Dec. 07 2011 11:24 AM
Listner from Manhattan

Google -- nyc vote locations church

I agree, get voting out of houses of worship.

Dec. 07 2011 11:23 AM
Steve from Manhattan

RE: voting in churches.

I live in the 104 ED in Manhattan and my voting place is the Armenian Church on 2nd Ave. and 35th St.

Dec. 07 2011 11:23 AM
Susie Reiss

There IS voting in churches-- I vote at the church at the corner of Frederick Douglass Blvd and 118 Street in Harlem (I cannot remember the name).

Dec. 07 2011 11:23 AM

I live on Sullivan St in SoHo. We vote in the basement of The Church of St. Anthony.

Dec. 07 2011 11:23 AM
john from office

A flea market is not the same as a church and when was the last time the KKK or the Nazi's rented from the public schools. He defeats his argument.

Stay out of public property, non tax paying entity.

Dec. 07 2011 11:23 AM
SteveH from Brooklyn

This amounts to a public support of Religious Cultism.


Dec. 07 2011 11:23 AM
Edward from NJ

Here's one polling pace in a Catholic school which is right next to and clearly affiliated with a church:

Dec. 07 2011 11:23 AM
Pam from NY

Bri--The Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew,
263 West End Avenue, is a polling place.

Dec. 07 2011 11:23 AM
MP from Brooklyn

I personally would not object to our school renting its space for any religious service - Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, whatever.

Dec. 07 2011 11:22 AM
Lois from West Milford

FYI regarding churches as polling places - where I used to live in Glen Rock NJ, my polling place was the Lutheran church.

Dec. 07 2011 11:22 AM

My polling place (33rd District) is in St. Anthony's Church on Sullivan Street. Enid, the caller, was not misinformed.

Dec. 07 2011 11:22 AM
Amber Sexton

There are polling places in churches as the caller said. When I voted for the very first time 24 years ago it was in the basement of St. Anthony's church on Sullivan St in Manhattan. I'm pretty sure there is still a polling place there.

Dec. 07 2011 11:22 AM
Chris from Queens

To corroborate one caller, I have seen voting in churches. I distinctly remember that my polling place was in a church when I first registered to vote in Thonotosassa, FL, circa 2004.

Dec. 07 2011 11:22 AM
pliny from soho

In Soho we vote in the basement of St Anthoneys on Sullivan St.

Dec. 07 2011 11:21 AM

What if a Wicca religous church wants to worship in a school??? How do these church leaders decide who should be allowed in and who should not??? Keep them all out!

Dec. 07 2011 11:21 AM
Fishmael from NYC

Just image if this discussion were around Q'ranic study groups or, just to turn the hysteria up to 11, "madrassas"?

It's not just what kids think - I'm a taxpayer, and I don't want a public facility to support a particular religion

Dec. 07 2011 11:21 AM
susan from nyc

Please tell your guest we are NOT legislating according to what 7-year-olds think; we are upholding the CONSTITUTION.

Dec. 07 2011 11:20 AM
David from West Hempstead

I voted in a church in 2008 in Ithaca, NY; it does happen.

Dec. 07 2011 11:20 AM

Confused? Are we that gullible and easily confused? Charge market rates make money!

And if your seven year old is confused, just tell them it's not their church and they're renting the space. Not so difficult!

here in pougheekspie, polling places ARE in churches!

Dec. 07 2011 11:20 AM
Robert from NYC

It became too comfortable for these churches occupying public schools. I can just hear someone asking another person what church do you attend and the answer being I attend services at PS whatever. No, find another place.

Dec. 07 2011 11:19 AM
Robert from NYC

No, get out of the schools. Use other churches, rent other spaces elsewhere, share other churches you hear about this all the time. Get out of our schools. There are other places to use. The church/state separation is an important part of our culture and should be strictly followed.
Build a new church, stop freeloading on the tax payer.

Dec. 07 2011 11:16 AM

If government allows worship in schools, then they can't very well deny an artist from showing art in a school even if it's art depicting the virgin mary with elephant dung on her. It has to be fair to all, and allowing one but not the other would be unfair. Churches should see what door their access would open for others.

Dec. 07 2011 11:15 AM
Hillary from Brooklyn

Just a question - if the Supreme Court upheld the previous ruling, why are the churches just now scrambling to find new space? Shouldn't they have found new locations when the earlier ruling came down?

Dec. 07 2011 11:14 AM
MP from Brooklyn

Not only do I think the children are not confused, I don't think they even notice.

Dec. 07 2011 11:14 AM
susan from nyc

Precisely what about separation of church and state do these people not understand? Schools are hardly the only available space: I know of three synagogues that share space, and even a church and a synagogue (one, I can't remember which, burned down). Most neighborhoods have empty storefronts. What happens if more than one religious institution wants to use the same space at the same time?

Dec. 07 2011 11:13 AM
Kate from Washington Heights

Hi Brian - As someone who has been very involved in many congregations, the truth is that many of these evangelical congregations are dying to get their hands on public school STUDENTS. They talk about "taking schools for Christ" all the time. I don't know about your guest, but many Christian leaders are perfectly happy to say what they know plays politically to obscure their true motives. I am a minister.

Dec. 07 2011 11:12 AM
Telegram Sam from Staten Island

"Worship" means praying and preaching. Very simple. These organizations already receive tax breaks and have virtually no regulation of their revenue. Giving over taxpayer-supported public space is a step too far.

Dec. 07 2011 11:12 AM
David from Greenpoint

I would let them hold their services in public schools if they would pay taxes, as all non for profits should.

Dec. 07 2011 11:12 AM
The Truth from Becky

What about the Garden?

Dec. 07 2011 11:12 AM

Who is the government??? It's the arm the impliments the constitution, and the constitution says that the government cannot establish a religion. Please, worship just must stay out of government buildings like schools. Having other church programs in schools is bad enough.

Churches shouldn't want to have such power over them held in the hands of the government. Get out!

Not paying taxes should be enough for the churches.

Dec. 07 2011 11:11 AM
The Truth from Becky

These churches do not "need" to be in schools! but there is nothing wrong with it if both entities are in agreement.

Dec. 07 2011 11:11 AM
MP from Brooklyn

What nonsense. A physical space is not secular or sacred. What harm does it do to anyone if the people using at one time are using it for a secular purpose and people using it at another time are using it for a sacred purpose? My son attends a Catholic school that rents its space for various secular purposes. Who is harmed by this? No one.

Dec. 07 2011 11:09 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Doesn't the church that burned down have insurance for just such an event?

Dec. 07 2011 11:09 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

There is a fine line between separation of Church and State and religious discrimination.

If a municipality allows its public space to be rented for "private" use (comic book conventions, bingo, fundraisers,) then I don't see how religious groups can be excluded?

As long as there is a transparent and open bidding process, there is a time limit on renting space before it is put up for re-leasing, I don't see a problem.

Dec. 07 2011 11:09 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Why not charge fair market rental rates? Many schools could certainly use the money and churches can finally pay their fair share.

And while these congregations have been using the schools during off hours, who pays for the lights and liability?

Dec. 07 2011 11:07 AM
John A.

Fair access for a fair price. Will you be addressing a possible case where an individual school would allow access but a school district (with it neighboring towns) would Disallow?

Dec. 07 2011 10:49 AM

In NJ churches are actually prompted into existence by the opportunity of free or cheap school space, to prosthelytize, call "non-believers" the devil, promote ignorance -- whatever they wish, insofar as it is protected by the US Constitution, to needy residents, such as recent immigrants. (Obviously one casualty of this policy is that the school gym is off limits to the community to play basketball, soccer, etc.).


Will this legislation effect such enterprises operating from NJ public school buildings? It seems so creepy and outrageous that it is legal.

Dec. 07 2011 10:20 AM

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