A bill passed in the New York state Senate will allow congregations without a permanent church to use schools to hold worship services, pushing the envelope for the separation of church and state.
The NY Times reports that the bill will permit church services to be held after hours in schools, despite an earlier court ruling that upheld the New York City Education Department's policy on not allowing religious services to be held in school buildings.
Republican Senator Martin J. Golden sponsored the bill, stating that this issue was about "equal access." Golden's bill is facing strong opposition from Democrats, including state Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver. Silver was quoted as saying:
I think the way the Senate is taking it up, it’s seriously flawed,” said the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, Democrat of Manhattan. “It would open up the schools to anybody. It might include the Ku Klux Klan. If you’re going to do anything, you’re going to have to make the city make a determination as to what’s an appropriate use of the schools.
The Education Department issued notices to congregations back in December that they were not allowed to meet in schools. The lack of a judgment on a 16 year old U.S. Supreme Court case that involved a Brooklyn church getting the boot from the school they were meeting in spurred the Department to issue the notice.
If New York does not pass this bill, it will become the first state to ban churches from meeting in public school buildings. Several protests have been planned, including one to take place on the Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday.