Yesterday for the fifth time the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals heard the now-famous Bronx Household of Faith case. The arguments made in the case a year ago led to a decision to disallow churches from renting NYC public schools, scheduled to take effect in February. But that decision was postponed in the wake of arguments that the courts had not fully considered the church’s First Amendment stance. Thus yesterday’s court date.
The Wall Street Journal reports that prospects for reversing the earlier decision are slim.
The three judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had plenty of questions for both sides as the nearly 18-year-old case came before it for a fifth time, but two of three judges who ruled against the worship services once before seemed likely to do it again.
This assessment was substantiated by a friend of mine who took part in the hearing and is pastor for a church meeting in a public school in Queens. “Get the arguments ready,” he writes. “There will be another appeal to SCOTUS for a grant of cert[iorari].” He goes on:
It is sad when the net effect of a court hearing is the lead judge of the panel of three essentially telling the attorney for the Dept of Ed[ucation]: “Your argument is not sufficient, let me show you how to argue this,” and then effectively turning around to the ADF attorney for Bronx Household of Faith, “Can you shoot down my argument, because this the way I plan to support my previous position?” And, his argument is essentially, “The Department of Ed can constitutionally bar your renting for your core activity because you’re the only one that does that activity, and so they’re not discriminating against you even if this is an effective way for them to discriminate against you.” The argument became the judge’s against the defense attorney.
Please continue praying. While some churches have found other places to meet, many others rent from city schools. The king’s heart is in the Lord’s hands. Let us appeal to him on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ.