Churches Grapple with School Ruling

ANGELA PASCOPELLA's picture
Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a Bronx church's case on whether it can hold worship services in New York City public schools.

The decision ends a 16-year legal battle over the rights of churches in city schools and means 160 area churches have roughly two months to find new places to hold worship services.

Lawyers for the Bronx Household of Faith, an evangelical congregation that meets at P.S. 15 in the Bronx, filed a petition in late September asking the court to review a June appeals-court ruling barring churches from holding worship services on school property.

Now that congregation, along with dozens of others, has until Feb. 12 to find a substitute house of worship.

The city's Department of Education had said churches would have to relocate by Jan. 1, but on Monday it pushed the date back. The Department of Education wanted to give congregations more time to find new spaces, said Natalie Ravitz, a DOE spokeswoman.

Under the current arrangement, churches pay nominal fees to hold worship services in schools. That arrangement has saved fledgling churches from paying market-rate rents for space in meeting centers or hotels.

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