Churches Hold Final Services Inside Public Schools

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dozens of churches across the city are holding their final services inside public schools Sunday, after a federal appeals court ruled formal worship in schools violates the separation of church and state. Many of these small churches have yet to find other places to worship.

Pastor Paul Curtis of Crossroads Christian Church in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, says it's hard to replace the classrooms and gym that the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology offers. While the search for space continues, Curtis says each Sunday his approximately 100 member congregation will alternate between attending services from people’s homes via video conference and participating in community work, such as cleaning parks or helping out a disabled neighbor.

"We would not have thought of this necessarily, if we weren't forced into the position, but the more we begin exploring it, the more we like it the more we want to give that a try and experiment with it," Curtis said.

Reverend Sam Andreades, from The Village Church in Manhattan, says his services are loud and full of music so worshiping at people's apartments would disturb neighbors. Instead, his church has been checking out spaces where off-off Broadway shows rehearse.

After their final service on Sunday, Andreades said his congregants will hold a celebration. "The proper response when you suffer something for worshiping Jesus is to rejoice," he said. The church’s 50 or so members do have a parting gift for the school that has been home for the last several years: it’s tuning P.S. 3's piano. Andreades says churches across the city have supported schools in numerous ways and evicting the churches will sever those relationships.

In 1995, religious groups filed a lawsuit, challenging the city’s rule of removing churches from schools. The city won in court and the groups have since exhausted all their appeals leading to Sunday’s deadline.

On Friday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the change will be good overall for religion. "The more religious you are, I think the more you should want to keep the separation because someday the religion that the state picks as the state religion might not be yours," he said.

Many churches are hoping Albany will pass legislation requiring the city to reverse course. The Senate passed the bill Monday, but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the legislation is too broad. The New York Civil Liberties Union supports the city’s position and has said it would look closely at challenging any legislation that requires schools to promote religion and violate the Constitution.

With reporting from Eddie Robinson


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Comments [5]

Satan from Hell

Last time I checked none of these churches paid a single cent in taxes. And now they expect to be able to leech free rent off the government teat as well? If you want to open a church, pay some f*cking rent. It's that simple.

Mar. 07 2012 03:56 PM
Vesper Stamper from NJ

I forget where I read this, but Redeemer pastor Tim Keller made a good point recently when he questioned the judge's ruling in this case. The judge alleged that the use of a space made it "sacred", and Keller countered that by saying that that was "superstitious" reasoning and not based on law. Ah, wait, here it is:

There is no constitutional "separation of church and state" per se based on the first amendment. The constitution says that Congress shall make NO LAW regarding the establishment of religion or prohibiting the FREE EXERCISE thereof. That to me says "hands off, Bloomberg". SO many of our country's laws are based on a concept that not only isn't there, but is the ANTITHESIS of the First Amendment. Read it and weep:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Feb. 14 2012 01:44 PM
cwebba1 from Astoria

This court case has dragged on for years. It's not like these religious organizations have not had time to find another place to go. They are not victims. This public space is needed for all students, or even adults, to learn.

Feb. 12 2012 08:27 PM
Leandro from Texas

antichrist spirit floating around...

Feb. 12 2012 11:32 AM
Jason from Adelaide, South Australia

Why can't they just make the school facilities available for any recognised church/religion, space and time permitting, so no religion/church is disavantaged?
It's not like they are holding their services in school hours if I understand this correctly?
I get separation of church and state (or at least I thought I did), but this seems extreme to an outsider.

Feb. 12 2012 03:25 AM

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