In a dramatic new development in the battle between the city and churches that wish to use public schools for their worship services, the New York Times, on February 16, reported that the churches have won a new ten-day injunction on the city's ban, based on their “likelihood of success” in making a court argument that the statute violates the free exercise of religion clause in the First Amendment.
US District Court Judge Loretta A. Preska, who had earlier decided in favor of the churches only to be overridden by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, is expected to rule on the claim during the ten-day period.
Until the time of the Second Circuit’s ruling last summer, the churches, represented in court by the virulently anti-gay litigation group Alliance Defense Fund, had enjoyed an injunction against the city’s ban on public school worship services since 2001. In the ensuing 11 years, the number of churches renting school space –– mainly on Sundays and at rates as low as $12 –– has risen to as many as 160.
The Times characterized the churches’ argument before Preska this week as a new one, not previously raised in the form it has now been.
Andy Humm reports on the churches’ separate effort to get the Legislature to override the city’s ban, a maneuver that was successful in the State Senate but remains pending in the Assembly.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told Gay City News his chamber would not act until the matter before Preska is resolved.