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BJC's Walker on Churches Using School Buildings: Treat All Organizations the Same E-mail

Last month the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that New York City is within its rights to prohibit schools from becoming houses of worship. Using a very slender distinction between religious worship and activities that simply represent a religious perspective, the court affirmed the city's concern that allowing religious groups to rent school buildings for the purpose of worship risks associating government resources with particular religions.

In an article exploring this ruling in the Tennessean, Baptist Joint Committee Director Brent Walker suggests this ruling may have gone too far.

That contradicts past rulings by the Supreme Court, said J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

“The school can hide the keys on Friday and not open up again until Monday,” Walker said. “But if it does open up to the outside, the school has to treat religion the same as any other group.”

Rob Boston, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, agreed that schools should be allowed to rent to churches as long as the churches are not given preferential treatment.

Is the distinction the court draws here important? Feasible? The kind of determination we want courts making?

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