06/01/2012 United States (Christian Post) – A U.S. federal judge heard arguments Friday in an ongoing legal battle over whether churches should be allowed to hold weekend worship services in New York City’s public schools.
The Alliance Defense Fund, representing Bronx Household of Faith, argued against claims that letting churches worship at schools would amount to government endorsement of religion. Churches, the ADF contended, are not doing anything different from what student religious groups are already allowed to do.
“I think that Judge [Loretta] Preska is with us,” said Jordan Lorence, senior counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund, in an interview with The Christian Post after the hearing.
The ADF has been representing Bronx Household of Faith since 1995, after its application to rent a public school building for Sunday services was rejected. In February 2012, it won a court order allowing churches to temporarily continue meeting for weekend services in public schools. The city’s ban on worship services in vacant public school buildings, which has affected dozens of churches in the city, is unique in the nation.
During Friday’s hearing in Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York, which lasted close to two hours and took place at the U.S. Courthouse in New York, Jonathan Pines, the Department of Education’s attorney, argued that churches should not be allowed to use school space for worship because an outside observer would view such permission as the government lending its support toward a religion.
ADF’s Lorence argued, however, that schools already provide students the opportunity to engage in religious practice by allowing them to hold Bible discussion groups, where students can sing hymns, pray together, and engage in Christian discussion.