What does New York City have against ordained ministers? In the latest version of its anti-church policy, the City discriminates against religious groups that ordain their ministers and follow a prescribed order of worship. The Becket Fund hopes that the federal courts will tell New York City “fuhgeddaboutit” when it comes to discriminating against churche
Ryan Colby 202-349-7219 firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Eric Rassbach
The long-running Bronx Household of Faith case we previously blogged about here is on another trip to the Second Circuit. The case concerns New York City’s repeated attempts to keep churches–and only churches–from renting public school buildings on the weekends like other community groups. In the latest version of its anti-church policy, the City discriminates against religious groups that ordain their ministers and follow a prescribed order of worship. For the City, meetings that include ordained ministers and an order of worship are “religious worship services” that must be excluded. However, groups that engage in hymn-singing, prayer, and other activities are not–in the City’s definition–worshipping and therefore can get access like other community groups.
Yesterday the Becket Fund, along with Professor Michael McConnell of Stanford Law School, submitted an amicus brief to the Second Circuit arguing that the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment do not allow New York City to discriminate against churches based on internal church decisions about whether to ordain ministers or follow an order of worship. Indeed, as the brief argues, New York City should not even care about how churches organize their worship services, much less penalize them for it:
In its efforts to win litigation more than a decade old, the Department has arrived at a Policy that requires it to inquire into and discriminate against religious groups that follow a prescribed order of worship or ordain ministers. But under the Religion Clauses, these are quintessential church decisions that the Department has no business interfering with. True church-state separation demands that the Policy be struck down.
The Becket Fund hopes that the federal courts will tell New York City “fuhgeddaboutit” when it comes to discriminating against churches.
Also assisting on the amicus brief was attorney Deborah J. Dewart.