NYC Church Evictions Halted With Temporary Restraining Order

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) announced today that it has won a court order allowing churches in New York City to continue meeting for weekend services at public schools, citing a temporary victory against the Department of Education.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted a temporary restraining order for 10 days, which will stop church evictions form public schools for the time being. The court will now fully consider constitutional arguments about the city's unique-in-the-nation prohibition on worship services in vacant public school buildings on weekends before making a final decision on the matter.

After the New York City Department of Education (DOE) released regulations banning "religious worship services" in school facilities, ADF attorneys petitioned on behalf of the Bronx Household of Faith, hoping to seek a preliminary and/or permanent injunction against the ban.

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The legal defense group had asked the court on Tuesday to "invalidate and restrain" the DOE's "unconstitutional and discriminatory" policy, arguing that it violated the free exercise of religion and Establishment Clause.

ADF lawyers have praised the court order, explaining that evicting churches from empty buildings helps no one in the community.

"The court's order is a message of hope for fundamental freedoms in New York City because it means that, for the time being, the city must welcome churches as it does other groups. ADF will continue to fight this battle relentlessly until the city no longer unconstitutionally prohibits activity for purely religious reasons," argued ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence.

The case that brought up the matter of churches being evicted from public schools on weekends is titled "Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York," which concerned an inner-city church that sought to rent a public school building on Sundays to hold worship services, but had its request rejected by the New York City Department of Education. Its eviction orders came when the Supreme Court refused to hear the case in appeal. 

In addition to the Bronx Household of Faith, there are more than 60 congregations that have been scrambling to find worship spaces amid the evictions. Many of them have been successful, getting help from churches with established homes. The temporary 10-day injunction surely comes as a relief to those congregations still seeking worship space.

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