Mayor Bloomberg was eloquent in his defense of religious freedom when he spoke up for the mosque near the World Trade Center site. We wish his fervor extended to the small church congregations that only want to rent vacant public school auditoriums in New York City for Sunday services.
For 15 years now, the city has been fighting the tiny Bronx Household of Faith, a small Christian congregation that has been having a difficult time finding a place to meet. It wants, consistent with its reading of the U.S. Constitution - and mine - to meet in a vacant public school space on weekends, just as all other community groups are allowed to.
The city flatly says no. It keeps losing this battle in court, but it won't quit. This is an astonishing situation given the mayor's declaration that "Political controversies come and go, but our values and our traditions endure, and there is no neighborhood in this city that is off-limits to God's love and mercy, as the religious leaders here with us can attest."
Granted, the facts are different. The mosque is to be built with private funds on private property. The church wants to use public school property, and that triggers some difficult questions. But five times now, starting in 1981, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot exclude religious groups from public facilities when government has opened them to other community organizations.
It is difficult to conclude that anything but anti-religious bigotry underlies the city's intransigence...
Read more of this NY Daily News story by Tom Minnery right here.