People of all faiths and supporters of religious liberty will march across the Brooklyn Bridge Sunday, April 22 in support of equal access for religious groups to meet in empty NYC school buildings. This is the latest in the long struggle against the New York City public schools’ policy of singling out worship services and denying them access to school buildings on the weekends, while allowing community groups to meet for all other purposes.
The march will begin at 2:00 pm at Cadman Park, which is on the Brooklyn (south) side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Supporters will march across the Brooklyn Bridge and assemble for a concert and prayer meeting. If you live near the New York City area, (and even if you don’t), please come to the march to show your support for religious liberty. And New York City in the springtime is beautiful!
Currently, churches and other religious groups are meeting in the schools, due to a preliminary injunction ADF attorneys won in February. Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan ruled in February that NYC’s anti-worship policy violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Currently, ADF attorneys are preparing a motion for a permanent injunction, which we expect Judge Preska to grant by mid-June. However, NYC will undoubtedly appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which last June ruled against the churches and equal access. The Court reversed an earlier permanent injunction Judge Preska had issued against the policy based on the Free Speech Clause. It is possible that the federal appeals court could rule against equal access once again and allow NYC to expel the churches.
But victory for religious liberty may come from another place, the New York Legislature, and this underscores the importance of the rally this Sunday. The New York Legislature is still actively considering a bill that would overturn the New York City policy. We want the march to show state lawmakers that many people support the equal access legislation. The bill passed the New York Senate earlier this year, and has been awaiting action for several months in the New York Assembly. We are hopeful that the leaders of the New York Assembly are close to an agreement to allow the legislation to go forward. If the Speaker allows the bill to come to the floor, it will likely pass.
We want to see a victory for equal access, no matter where it comes from. The goal is to protect the rights of religious groups to meet in public schools, whether that success comes from the New York Legislature or the federal courts. See you Sunday on the Brooklyn Bridge!