In a major but interim defeat for the New York City Department of Education, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit late yesterday denied the City’s request to stay the preliminary injunction. The Second Circuit gave detailed instructions to the parties and to the lower court on how to proceed with the litigation, requiring the District Court to issue a final decision by mid-June, so that the appeals court could rule on the constitutionality of the policy before school starts in the fall. This means that the churches and other religious groups will be able to meet through the end of the summer at least and possibly longer.
Today, the NYC Department of Education has been rejecting applications by churches to use the schools unless they have a disclaimer on their churches’ websites saying that the churches’ speech is not endorsed by the Department of Education. This is petty because it unrealistically assumes that people reading the churches’ websites will mistakenly interpret a statement that the church “meets Sunday morning at P.S. XYZ in Brooklyn” to mean government endorsement of the churches’ speech. Many churches are putting the disclaimer on their websites and reapplying to meet in the schools.
We are hoping that this matter can be successfully resolved soon, with the New York Legislature ordering NYC to repeal the ordinance, or the appeals court strikes it down.