NEW YORK-The New York State Senate Monday, by a vote of 52-7, passed Senate Bill S6087, which would allow religious organizations to use public schools. The New York State Assembly will take up the bill next.
Without legislative change, this coming Sunday will be the final day religious organizations can meet in the city's public schools.
Manhattan Bible Church senior pastor Bill Devlin, who serves on the steering committee for Right to Worship, which represents church efforts to continue using schools for worship, is on Day 21 of his water-only fast. He hopes the bill will reach Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desk for a signature before Feb. 19, which would allow congregations to continue meeting at schools without interruption.
Those opposing the bill claim it will unite the state with religious views and lead students to think their schools are affiliated with the churches.
Devlin is calling on larger New York City churches and religious organizations to get involved in this battle: "The steering committee of Right to Worship hopes that the entire pastoral committee of New York City would join with their brother pastors who are getting evicted and will be made homeless by [Mayor Michael Bloomberg's] and [New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott's] decision."
Tim Keller, pastor of New York's Redeemer Presbyterian Church, released a statement in which he disagrees with the opinion issued by Judge Pierre Leval of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that religious worship transforms a building into a church.
"This is an erroneous theological judgment," Keller wrote. "Conversely, I concur with Judge John Walker's dissenting opinion that this ban constitutes viewpoint discrimination and raises no legitimate Establishment Clause concerns."
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal on the 2nd Circuit's ruling in December. (See "'Denied,'" by Emily Belz, Dec. 5, 2011.)
Devlin is planning to invite the 150 leaders who initiated the Manhattan Declaration, a declaration in defense of the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty, to join his efforts to keep public schools accessible to religious organizations.
Look for continuing coverage at WORLD New York.