Bronx, New York – New York State Assemblyman Nelson L. Castro (D-Bronx) announced today that he has recently introduced legislation (Assembly Bill A8800) to authorize religious meetings and worship in schools when not in use for school purposes.
Currently, State Education Law allows school districts to provide an “Extended Use Permit” to any individual, community based organization (CBO), or any other organization. This permit allows for social, civic, educational, recreational meetings, and entertainment on school property, as well as other uses pertaining to the welfare of the community.
However, religious groups and organizations will not be allowed to worship in school properties as of February 12, 2012. As a result, hundreds of churches that currently rent public school facilities will be evicted by the New York City Department of Education. “This determination by New York City will only affect communities of color and low income communities such as the one I represent,” Assemblyman Castro expressed.
Some school districts have excluded groups and have thereby acted to regulate free speech and the conduct of religious organizations, potentially in violation of the both the New York State Constitution and the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
“The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed in this state to all humankind” –Article 1.3 New York State Constitution
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” –First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
This bill would prevent school districts from excluding groups from meeting in school property because of the religious content or viewpoint of their speech, including allowing religious worship services.