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Churches Can Worship in City Schools for Now, Judge Rules

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A U.S. District Court ruled Thursday that churches can temporarily continue to meet for worship in the city's public schools.

Judge Loretta Preska issued the temporary restraining order on Thursday, granting religious organizations a 10-day stay that temporarily guards against their eviction from schools.

They were previously ordered to vacate facilities by February 12, after a federal appeals court ruled that those meetings violate the separation of church and state. Challengers argued that the ruling the ruling violates first amendment rights.

The Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing the plaintiff, Bronx Household of Faith, cheered the ruling in a statement on Thursday.

"The court's ruling is a message of hope for fundamental freedoms in New York City because it means that, for the time being, the city must welcome churches as it does other groups," said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence.

Challengers are also pursing state legislation that would allow religious groups to use public school space. The Senate has approved the measure, but it's still pending in the Assembly.

"This last-minute decision disrupts plans that both the city and congregations worked out months ago," the city law department said in a statement.  "We will seek immediate appellate review.”

Bronx Household of Faith v. Bd. of Ed.

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