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NYC Churches Shut Out of Public Schools Starting Sunday

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By Nicola Menzie , Christian Post Reporter
February 11, 2012|4:31 pm

Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, has spoken out against the City's decision to evict these nearly 70 churches, as several of the ministries being put out of their homes have ties to Redeemer Presbyterian. In an op-ed published Tuesday, Keller called the City's decision "unwise" and expressed his conviction that forcing many of these churches to uproot from the neighborhoods they have been in for years, will prove detrimental to those communities.

MSNBC journalist Martin Bashir, who reportedly worships at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, has used his prominent position on his daily news program to advocate for these churches' rights to equal access. On the program's Wednesday broadcast, Bashir called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to reverse his decision to ban churches from public schools and to show religious tolerance.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), perhaps taking a cue from the Board of Education, made a similar move, refusing to renew month-to-month leases with several congregations that use its community centers, as meeting places for their ministries.

Pastor Dimas Salaberrios of Infinity NY Church, which meets at a NYCHA-owned Bronx River Community Center, decided to push back, eventually convincing the housing authority to relent.

Salaberrios, who has rallied with the affected and their supporters outside of the New York City Law offices and elsewhere throughout New York City, believes the Board of Education's policy disproportionately affects the poor.

"If something does not change, our city will face the result of carelessly displacing thousands of people from their churches. Furthermore, even secular New Yorkers will suffer as our poor lose their social support network. Who will be crying and weeping with them?" Salaberriors said in an online post.

According to a poll published Feb. 2 by LifeWay Research, about 65 percent of Americans do not mind churches using public school spaces for worship, while nearly half of all New Yorkers agree with that statement.

An Equal Access web page has been launched for local churches in need of a meeting place and for congregations that are able to offer them space. By visiting the NYC Equal Access page at faithstreet.com, "helpful" churches can coordinate with "homeless" churches for worship space. As of Saturday, there were about 33 evicted churches listed as "homeless" and in need of space.

On a radio program Friday, Mayor Bloomberg showed no sign he intended to interfere with the Board of Education's decision to oust churches from public schools. He, in fact, lauded the policy, insisting the policy is in favor of religious freedom.

"Separation of church and state is one of the basics of our country, it's one of the things that keeps everybody having the ability to pray how they want to pray, or not pray if that's what they choose," Bloomberg told WOR radio.

As for lawmakers in Albany attempting to hammer out a solution to the equal access debate, Bloomberg said, "I don't know what's going to happen in Albany. I can just tell you what's happening here. This is the last Sunday that these religious organizations will be able to have worship services in the schools."

 

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