ICC Note: Across the United States people of faith are increasingly pressured to keep their religious beliefs private, especially in the area of public education. Now, John Flannery, an outspoken Virginia attorney and former public prosecutor, is calling on public schools to cease renting out facilities for after-hours use by Christian churches. Flannery claims this arrangement qualifies as government endorsement of religion and is unconstitutional. A member of the specific school board Flannery is targeting pointed out “we’ve never had any complaint at all about this…[He] really won’t be satisfied until we’ve completely excised religion from the public sphere.”
12/15/2014 United States (Christian News) – An outspoken Virginia attorney says that he wants public schools to stop renting space to churches for worship services, as he believes that the arrangement is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Attorney John Flannery, a former federal prosecutor and congressional chief of staff, recently wrote on the blog “Loudon Progress” that he found it problematic that 34 out of 87 schools in Loudoun County allow churches to host services on the premises each Sunday.
“It’s time to declare that religious worship is an impermissible use of our public schools,” he said. “In Loudoun County, the churches that use public school space are holding ‘church services’ and collecting ‘donations.’ This use advances religious worship, and thus religion. The government is plainly entangled when it’s hosting religious worship not in one or two schools but in 40% of all the county’s public schools.”
Flannery opined that society is ripe for dialogue about the matter as it has not generally been a topic of discussion. He said that renting the space after hours when school is not in session does not rectify the situation.
“The gyms, cafeterias and libraries in our public schools have served as the nave and transept for various church denominations going back 12 years or more,” he stated. “We’ve had these religious services without a murmur of inquiry or dissent, and now suffer from an inertial indifference to question what’s become an unquestioned practice—‘don’t rock the boat]’—‘after all, the services are not during regular school hours’—‘the churches pay to lease the space you know’—even though the established practice appears wholly unconstitutional.”
“It’s past the time when we should have stopped this unconstitutional ‘establishment’ of religious worship in our public schools,” Flannery said.
But Loudoun school board member Bill Fox told reporters last week that he sees nothing wrong with renting to churches on Sundays and the community at large doesn’t either.
“We’ve never had any complaint at all about this,” he said. “We rent out to numerous different community groups and non-profit organizations, including churches, and a variety of churches.”
Fox said that Flannery is known for taking aim at religion.
“[He] really won’t be satisfied until we’ve completely excised religion from the public sphere,” he stated. “Some folks just believe that the First Amendment stands for the proposition that we should free from religion, instead of having freedom of religion. I’ve been an advocate for the First Amendment my entire life, and that’s not the First Amendment [interpretation] that I’ve studied and that I advocate for.”