The New York City Council last Wednesday voted 38-11 to ask the state legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to approve legislation to permit religious services to take place at public school facilities when they are not in use. The rapid response editorial writers of The New York Times complained two days later that about 40 congregations now use school buildings for regular Sunday services.
The editorialists then quoted the New York Civil Liberties Union’s argument that “the interests of religious freedom” require that auditoriums be left empty on weekends. The reason, according to the NYCLU: “Religious freedom is better protected when the government is prohibited from favoring any particular religion or favoring believers over nonbelievers.”
The Times concluded, “It is highly disturbing that most City Council members seem to be unfamiliar with this constitutional principle.” It’s more disturbing that Times writers seem to be unfamiliar with either the facts or logic. The facts: Religious groups pay for the use of those buildings, and atheists who want to rent school auditoriums can do so. Logic: How is the government favoring a particular religion when it’s ready to sell space to all religions?
The editorialists were right in one respect: The government is favoring those who want to meet, above those who stay home on Sunday morning to read the Times. But that’s life: Infrastructure always benefits those who use it. New York residents pay taxes to build and maintain public schools. Why should they go unused on Saturdays and Sundays when residents are willing to pay extra to use them?