A New York City church has found a new home since an appeals court ruled that public schools can bar churches from renting their facilities.
Abundant Life Church, a Brooklyn congregation that initially met at P.S. 91 for worship, has been given rented space by the Beulah Church of the Nazarene. The congregation worshipped on Sunday at an annex of Beulah’s known as the Hope City Empowerment Center.
Pastor Karim Camara of Abundant Life explained that he had “started looking for a location” even before the legal decision was handed down as a cautionary measure. Because Camara had been to the annex before for community events, Hope City “was on my short list.”
Camara, who also serves as a member of the New York State Assembly, talked about helping other New York churches displaced by recent court rulings.
“We’re not directly involved in legal action,” said Camara to The Christian Post.
However, he and others were supporting political efforts on the issue.
“We’re trying to address this through the state legislature.”
One such effort has been introduced by New York Assemblyman Nelson Castro of Assembly District 86.
If enacted, Castro’s Bill A08800 would allow “the use of school buildings and school sites for religious meetings and worship when not in use for school purposes or when such service or worship is deemed not disruptive of normal school operations.”
In June 2011, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Bronx Household of Faith, which was represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, could no longer meet at a public school building. The ruling stated that public schools could prohibit churches from using their facilities for worship services, even on the weekends or after school hours.
The ADF and Bronx Household attempted to appeal the decision; however in December 2011, the Supreme Court refused to hear their case.
The Court’s decision affected over 60 congregations that previously used public school buildings for worship services.
A couple days after the Supreme Court’s decision, over 100 pastors and legislators rallied at City Hall to allow churches to meet at public schools as other groups are allowed to.
“The government cannot target religious services for exclusion from public buildings when they are open to other similar types of meetings,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence in a statement.
The 60 plus congregations affected by the ruling have until Feb. 12 to find a new space. It’s a time table that Camara and others believe to be too short.