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Written by Don Byrd   
Monday, 13 June 2011

In Sunday's NYTimes, op-ed contributor Katherine Stewart discusses the use of her young daughter's public school as a house of worship. She attended a service for herself, and found that the minister discusses praying for the names of children - including her daughter's - whose artwork lines the walls of the school.

After the service, I chatted with the pastor and asked how much it cost to rent the school. “Oh no,” he said. “We don’t pay rent! New York is way too expensive! We just pay the custodians’ fee.” I learned that the church was using the school not just on Sunday mornings and evenings, but also on some Wednesday and Friday nights, and that it paid a pittance for the privilege — far less than the nearly $100,000 that the P.T.A. spent last year to renovate the restrooms the church members were using.

Ours is just one of at least 60 New York City schools that have doubled as rent-free houses of worship — the vast majority of them evangelical Christian churches — in their off-hours.

In light of the 2nd Circuit's recent ruling allowing the city to prohibit such a use, she urges, New York should do just that. Stewart concludes that a school building should be about "education for all, not salvation for a few."

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