A NYC Department of Education policy allows religious and other community organizations to use classrooms and other facilities for after-hours programs, but won’t allow the buildings to be used for actual worship. A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday to uphold this policy.
Many small religious congregations cannot afford their own houses of worship, so they rent public spaces to do so. But part of the appeals court decision was that the government cannot subsidize a congregation for their use of public facilities to worship, and therefore, they are banned from using such facilities.
Apparently the two judges deciding this way didn’t see the memo that the congregation in question – the Bronx Household of Faith – is not being subsidized by the government. They are paying for the space with their own money, and using the space only when nobody else is using it.
Somehow, though, the New York Civil Liberties Union sees the court ruling as “a victory for religious freedom.”
“When a school is converted to a church in this way, it sends a powerful message ... that the government favors that particular church. Our Constitution gives all New Yorkers the right to worship — or not — as they choose,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU executive director.
So according to Ms. Lieberman, New Yorkers have the freedom to worship as they choose, they just don’t have the freedom of assembly to do that worshiping. How is that a victory for any freedom?
Ms. Lieberman is also fantastically wrong in saying that allowing the school to be used for worship signifies government’s endorsement of that religion. No, it only means the government is endorsing the Bill of Rights, which guarantees the free exercise of religion and assembly.
The government would be erring on the side of religion if it established an official religion of America. That’s what the founders of our country were escaping from in England, where it had established the Church of England as its official church – and that is why our First Amendment is worded to say, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Allowing free Americans to worship in an empty building for which they are paying rent is hardly forcing religion on anyone. Shame of the NYCLU and the judges for saying otherwise.
It’s amazing how many Americans seem to forget that our First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. While Muslims are allowed to use public schools in NYC, I wonder if anyone is monitoring them to make sure they are not worshiping Allah while there. I doubt it. As usual, it’s the Christians being singled out and bullied by an increasingly intolerant, tyrannical left.
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