The New York Senate Monday approved the bill 52-7 that would compel New York City to rescind its policy banning private religious worship services in the public schools when school is not in session. The bill had overwhelming bipartisan support, and now moves to the New York Assembly. I joined hundreds of Christians and their pastors from New York City as they visited state lawmakers to urge them to support the bill. I accompanied them to answer questions by the lawmakers and their staff about the Bronx Household of Faith case and to assure them that they would not be “defying the court” by passing the bill. The decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals last June only ruled that it was constitutionally permissible for NYC to have its anti-worship service policy, but that the Constitution did not require it.
The NYC school district is taking this bill seriously, because I ran into School Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who had been lobbying lawmakers to defeat the bill. The NYC School Chancellor is not going to travel to Albany unless he is concerned that the bill would pass. Unfortunately, Chancellor Walcott clings to the obsolete arguments that every other major school district and most courts in the nation have rejected, that schools must promote “separation of church and state” by singling out religious groups and banning their worship services from the empty school buildings. The government does not endorse religion by simply allowing religious groups to meet in public schools on the same terms and conditions as every other community group.
We are praying for quick action by the state Assembly, so that the bill can go to Governor Cuomo and he can sign it into law, so the 60 or so churches will not have to leave the NYC schools after next Sunday, February 12. This is not over yet.