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New York Times: “Get churches out of public schools.”

That was the Times’ editorial on May 25, and it opened as follows:

“New York City prohibits the use of public school facilities for regular religious services. That policy makes sense for buildings that are used and maintained by taxpayers.”

But since the school buildings are vacant over weekends – when Muslims, Jews and Christians hold their principle services of worship – why should they (as taxpaying citizens) be denied the right to worship if they pay a rental fee for the premises and keep them clean and undamaged?

Does New York City prohibit all other non-school organizations from such school building use? Or is this only a discrimination against religion (which is illegal under the First Amendment)?

By way of full disclosure: During my years as an Episcopal priest and founder of new mission churches, we held services in public schools – for which we paid rent and whose property we kept undamaged and clean.

That does not satisfy the anti-religious. And so, the city council of New York voted 38-11 to pass a resolution asking the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to approve legislation to permit religious services on public school properties when they’re not in use.

That led the frequently excessive Times editorial department to the following incredibility:

“This misguided idea could turn public schools into houses of worship, essentially funded by city government.”

QUESTION: Has any church in this nation whose congregation has worshipped inside a public school ever described the said school building as a “house of worship”?

The Times editorial also notes:

“The issue has gone back and forth in federal courts since the 1990s. After the Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that school districts could not discriminate and exclude student bible clubs from using schools during nonschool hours, the Bronx Household of Faith church claimed religious discrimination and got a court to issue an injunction against New York City’s policy. That injunction was overturned in 2011. Then last year, a federal court held in another case that the policy was unconstitutional; that ruling is being appealed. Meantime, some 40 congregations now use school buildings for regular Sunday services.

“Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, has argued repeatedly that this resolution and state legislation must be defeated ‘in the interests of religious freedom.’ Separation of church and state under the First Amendment, she said, rests on the understanding that ‘religious freedom is better protected when the government is prohibited from favoring any particular religion or favoring believers over nonbelievers.’”

But what Ms. Lieberman is advocating is a discrimination favoring nonbelievers over believers – wherever public schools allow their property to be used by any outside groups except the religious.

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