We reported the good news that last Thursday, the federal district court in Manhattan issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop New York City’s Department of Education from enforcing its policy banning private worship services. However, things went a bit askew Friday evening. During the day on Friday, NYC filed an emergency motion with the federal appeals court in NYC, called the Second Circuit, requesting that it stop the TRO so that NYC could continue banning the worship services. About 6:30 pm Friday evening, we received an order from the Second Circuit. The appeals court rejected NYC’s request to stop the TRO from going into effect (good news) but ruled that the TRO only applied to the named party in the lawsuit, Bronx Household of Faith (n0t good news)! So NYC then sent out emails to churches on Friday night revoking the permits it had issued in the last 2 days in response to the district court’s TRO.
Bronx Household of Faith did hold its meeting in the NYC public school where it has been meeting, but others did not. For example, Heavenly Vision Christian Center, a church that meets in the Washington Heights area of northern Manhattan and ministers to the immigrants in the area from the Dominican Republic, worshiped on the sidewalk near the public school where the 1000-member congregation meets (IS 52). The pastor of Crossroads Church in Staten Island, Ray Parascando, got the late night email revoking his permit, so he held a press conference outside the school on Sunday morning, and his church met in a different church building that evening.
We expect Judge Preska to issue a preliminary injunction within the next week, and it should apply to all religious groups desiring to hold worship services in the NYC public schools. This situation is rapidly changing, so please continue to pray and stay tuned.