A New York State Senate committee has stepped in on behalf of churches that soon will not be allowed to meet in public schools in New York City.
Sponsored by assistant Senate Majority Whip Martin J. Golden, the bill would “prevent school districts from excluding groups from meeting on school property because of the religious content or viewpoint of their speech, including allowing religious worship services.”
“I salute the New York State Senate Education Committee on taking bold and decisive action on this important issue,” said New York City Councilman Fernando Cabrera, who urged state legislators to address the matter. “I am confident the Assembly will follow suit, and urge Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo to sign the legislation when it reaches his desk.”
If S6087A, approved by the committee Jan. 24, does not pass, New York City would become the first major city nationwide to ban churches from meeting in public schools.
In December, the New York Department of Education told about 60 churches they have until Feb. 12 to find alternative meeting spaces.
Several peaceful demonstrations protesting the policy have taken place. Cabrera, who also is a pastor, was one of several people arrested for a show of civil disobedience earlier in January.
Ray Parascando, pastor of Crossroads Church in Staten Island, N.Y., which has met in a public school for four years, commended the Senate committee for moving the bill forward.
“It shows that it’s not isolated to churches and pastors that think this is unconstitutional,” Parascando told Baptist Press. “It shows that local elected leaders, regardless of their spiritual affiliations, think this is unfair.
“This is picking up steam. There are a number of local and now regional politicians within the five boroughs that are stepping up to the plate and making phone calls and putting their names on bills,” Parascando said. “I think there’s a strong possibility that this could get overturned and at the very least an extension will be given.”
The bill says groups should be allowed to gather in schools “even in the event that such meetings include religious content or views in their speech, so long as these meetings are open to the general public.”
Source: Baptist Press
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach and World News Service.