Photo by Erica Sherman

Albany – State Senator Martin J. Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn), today is announcing that legislation he sponsored, S. 6087A, which allows religious institutions to use public school buildings for worship services during non-school hours, has unanimously passed the Senate Education Committee.

“As the freedom of religion is a basic principle of this great nation, it is only then sensible that religious institutions, holding services open to the public, be allowed to do so in public school buildings.Organizations based on faith deserve the same rights as all other groups, and because of their beliefs, should not be held to a different standard.  These misguided polices that have been put into place do nothing more than detract from the right to worship.

“This legislation will give religious institutions the right to worship without interfering with the separation of church and state.  These groups will now have the right to meet when school is not in session, and gives a home back to many religious groups whom were kicked out of facilities that they have used for over a decade.”

S6087A was introduced in response to the New York City Department of Education banning religious groups for holding worship services inside school buildings.

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  • Brightonresident

    Keep your “church” seperate!  No church in public buildings!!!!

    • levp

      Alternatively, I think I’ll create a group called “Bay Pastafarian People”, an affiliate of http://www.venganza.org/about/ and apply for use of P.S. 52 on Fridays, since “Every Friday is a Religious Holiday” in the FSM Church’ beliefs (see the previous link).
      Combine that with another of our teachings: “We are fond of beer” (source: same link), and it sounds like a lot of fun.

      • Andrew Kent

        And what about a Festivus party?  That’s not even a religious holiday.

        • levp

          It has to be a “religious institution”, according to a proposed legislation.

  • NSF

    As long as the religious institutions can’t promote their services on school grounds, this looks like a profit-making idea to generate money for a cash-strapped education system.
    Just hope there are strict guidelines banning any promotion or notices of all worship services during school hours or on school property. Any violation should prohibit that organization from being allowed to use public schools for a reasonable period.

    • levp

      I’m picturing a banner on one of the room’s door: “Mullah Mahmud Masjid (from 5 to 7 PM)”

    • nolastname

      If the religious institutions pay for renting the space along with the staff that is necessary to keep the building legally functioning and there is NO literature in sight during PUBLIC school hours,I agree, go for it.
      I also like Levp and part of Fabab”s Ideas. 

      • http://www.google.com/ F_a_b_a

        Do you like to join our S&M club sweetie? :)

        • nolastname

          Swedish Meatballs? I’m in. ;-P

  • http://www.google.com/ F_a_b_a

    “faith deserve the same rights as all other groups”
    They deserve the same rights when they start paying same taxes as other groups.

  • http://www.google.com/ F_a_b_a

    Also since everyone has equal rights to public areas how about S&M clubs should be permitted to hold meetings in schools too. How About KKK? They are legitimate organization as well.

    • Jack

      are you a representative?

  • Andrew Kent

    If the DOE charges the religious institution the same rate it charges other not-for-profit groups, it shouldn’t matter what the content of their activities is.  And how does one differentiate between a faith-based organization’s secular activities and worship?  Would a quick, non-denominational prayer said before a community meeting be considered a worship service?  Should a yoga or meditation class be deemed a religious activity as some evangelicals believe?  And, if these activities are conducted by outside organizations, when school is not in session, and are not intended to involve or influence students, is there really a conflict with the Constitution’s Establishment Clause or the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on school prayer?

    Although the Court did ban school-sponsored prayer, and even a devotional moment of silence, individual students have, and have always had, the right to pray in school.  Students who say grace at their table before lunch in the cafeteria, cross themselves before a math test, or read their bibles during study hall or at recess have a Constitutional right to do so under the Free Exercise Clause, and Muslim students, individually or collectively, are given time and a place to say their prayers as scheduled during the school day.  Cafeterias are free to serve kosher and halal food to students requiring such, and there are no prohibitions, as there are in some other otherwise democratic countries, against students wearing religious symbols or attire.  So passing judgment on the devotional content of meetings held by outside groups, presumably under an interpretation of the Establishment Clause, inevitably raises questions under the Free Exercise Clause.  This is a complex issue that needs more than merely a legislative solution.

    Would a community sponsored country music concert be deemed a religious activity if the singer sang a gospel song?  Would a neighborhood holiday party featuring Christmas carols, Hanukkah songs, or whatever they do for Kwanzaa be treated the same as a revival meeting conducted by a traveling tent preacher, and should even the latter be prohibited?  My guess is that the DOE is simply attempting to steer clear of controversy, especially with all the anti-Muslim sentiment and the heavy-handed theopolitical evangelism of many Muslim and Christian groups, not to mention the homophobic prattling of these groups, and even some Hassidic sects, as well.  In that case, why not also ban political activities, like the debate between candidates Turner and Weprin held last year at P.S. 195?

    If renting out school space is a cash cow for the DOE that will pay for textbooks, teachers, and improvements to school facilities, then perhaps the DOE shouldn’t nitpick over the otherwise socially acceptable activities of legitimate non-profit groups.  Perhaps there should be a committee of non-governmental people making the determinations as to who should and should not be allowed to use school property.  Clearly S&M clubs and the KKK should be barred, as their activities, although legal, are largely offensive to public sensibilities.  But, then, where does one draw the line should gay rights, abortion, or medical marijuana advocates, or proponents of other controversial causes, request meeting space?  I’d be interested in seeing the DOE’s guidelines as to which kinds of groups can and can not use school facilities and whether it is philosophically consistent or merely anti-religion, enacted in what I see as a misinterpretation of a landmark SCOTUS ruling on school prayer that was never intended to preclude an individual’s right to pray.

    • levp

      Barring KKK would clearly be viewpoint discrimination.  Both KKK and Nazi groups have routinely won lawsuits on that basis.  If you issue a permit for a Salute to Israel parade, you have to issue the same permit for a neo-Nazi group (remember the infamous Skokie case?)
      Or, KKK v. City of Gary, Indiana:
      http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/tmp/F010SWHC.pdf
      Or, more recently, in the Delaware’s Adopt-A-Highway program:
      http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/nov/22/neo-nazis-create-furor-by-getting-adopt-a-highway-/?page=all

      Also, as you say yourself in the beginning of your post, INDIVIDUALS are already permitted to pray in school. The proposed legislation deals with ORGANIZATIONS and worship services, thus making it subject of debate under http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_prayer

      So, for as long as women’s faces and ankles are completely covered and no homos are present, school’s all yours, gents!

      • http://kibblesbits.wordpress.com/ Ann

        It’s not “in school” it’s “in a school building when school is not in session”. Surely you can tell the difference?

        • levp

          Of course. But it is still a public taxpayer-funded facility, so an organized worship service in such place presents Establishment Clause concerns (as opposed to some or all individual students praying on their own initiative).

          • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

            The church organization should disguise itself as a Muslim organization. Then you’ll be shouting out your support for their rights.

          • levp

            Not just Muslim.  I welcome Wiccans and Satanists as well.

  • Guest

    Get ready to have Jesus shoved into your face. Especially in minority neighborhoods. Oh they are going to love this! Say goodbye to sleeping in on sundays if you live across or near a public school.

    • Tinman

      To what minorities are you referring you myopic bigot? I don’t think church-going people bring their prayers into the streets on Sunday mornings. But it’s hard to believe they’re praying is any louder than weekday mornings when children bring a joyful noise on their way to school.

  • Ga4ry

    So a public institution that welcomes all members of society as equal will now host meetings of people who view women as inferior, gays as a virus,witches as kindeling.
    Weekly meetings of people who deny evolution and promote anti science will place icons of zombie jesus over portraits of Jefferson and Darwin.
    Buildings that once espoused the great ideas of humanity will allow parasitic leaders to collect money from hapless sheep in order to secure entry into nirvana.
    Why open the schools to these groups when the city could offer public toilets as a meeting place in keeping with the message

    • Anonymous

      Protecting freedom of speech means we must protect the speech that we don’t agree with. Otherwise we are all hypocrites. 

  • gl

    Let’s open whore-house in school, it will bring money, too.
    It’s not done democratically, the way he did it names dictatorship.

  • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

    I’m reading some unbelievable comments here. People who I guess would shout out against bigotry against blacks, Jews, women, or gays, feel no hesitation to display bigotry against the church and/or religious people. I guess it’s not on their list of “not allowed groups” so they feel it’s okay.

       What’s next,  Irish drinking cracks? How about Italian mob cracks, or Germans-as-Nazis. You can pick on them too.

  • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

    What if an atheist group wants to meet in the school? Is that okay?

    • levp

      Not OK if that atheist group wants to hold a worship service as part of their activities.

      • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

        Of course, any activity by the atheist group will be defined as “non-worship”. Of course.

        • levp

          Atheists: nothing to worship, so non-worship.

  • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

    Years ago, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, which took funding in part from the city government, put in an exhibit which was a statue of the Virgin Mary with feces all over it. The city went to court, and of course, in this city, lost.  The government was REQUIRED to continue its funding of this “art”.

    So let me get straight the liberal logic I’m hearing here, and anyone can tell me if I’m wrong:

    -  If you bring the Virgin Mary statue with feces on it into a government funded place, the government is REQUIRED to pay for it.
    -  if you bring a Virgin Mary statue WITHOUT feces on it, not only won’t the government finance it, but the church itself is NOT ALLOWED to bring it in, even if they offer to pay for the space.

        Some strange liberal logic strikes again in our great city!

    • levp

      Not quite.

      You can totally bring a statue of whomever, including Virgin Mary, Buddha, etc. into a publicly-financed museum as part of an exhibit.  Please visit AMNH and their Culture Halls to see how it is done:
      http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/permanent/culture/

      You, as an individual, can walk up to such an exhibit and pray until the museum’s closing time.

      You can not, however, hold an organized worship/prayer service in such publicly-financed museum using such exhibit.

      Easy logic.

      • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

        But people are saying here that a religious organization should not be allowed to, say bring a religious statue into a school after hours, at their own expense (maybe you’re not saying this, but others are).  Are we  trying to create a difference here that one is a school and one is a museum? Seems like one’s logic should apply equally to any group, and any govt-funded building.

         The fact is, as usual, the same people here  using “freedom of speech” in one instance are limiting free speech in a similar instance, depending upon what group they favor.

        • Anonymous

          Sorry off topic.

          but your picture with that monkey is Awesome!

      • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

        But people are saying here that a religious organization should not be allowed to, say bring a religious statue into a school after hours, at their own expense (maybe you’re not saying this, but others are).  Are we  trying to create a difference here that one is a school and one is a museum? Seems like one’s logic should apply equally to any group, and any govt-funded building.

         The fact is, as usual, the same people here  using “freedom of speech” in one instance are limiting free speech in a similar instance, depending upon what group they favor.

        • levp

          Again, you can have a church meeting in a public school building, and you can bring a Virgin Mary statue to that meeting.  Heck, court even said that you can have an organized prayer, for as long as that is not a primary function of such meeting.