The Supreme Court declined on Monday to review a state court's ruling that religious groups in New York could not use public school facilities for worship services, even outside of school hours.
A small evangelical Christian church, the Bronx Household of Faith, had challenged a U.S. appeals court ruling that the separation of church and state forbade religious services on public property. With the Supreme Court's decision not to hear the appeal, the earlier ruling against the church will stand.
Children, especially younger children, are very impressionable and vulnerable, Michael Cardozo, a lawyer for New York City, told Reuters. They think in absolutes, and they are likely to misconstrue a congregation's use of their school for its worship services as their beliefs being sponsored or supported by the school.
Jordan Lorence, a lawyer for the church, countered that the city allows numerous groups to use public school facilities after hours, and that banning religious organizations constituted viewpoint discrimination and censorship of private religious speakers.
This court's review is needed to resolve an issue of exceptional and recurring importance, namely whether the government may exclude religious worship services from a broadly open speech forum, Lorence told Reuters.
Since the appeals court issued its ruling in 2009, the church had been allowed to hold its Sunday services in the public school, pending the Supreme Court's decision, under an injunction from a federal judge. That injunction will now expire with the Supreme Court's decision not to hear the case.
The Supreme Court issued no comment in rejecting the case.