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Appeals Court Hears Arguments on Worship in Public Schools

A Bronx church called the ban on using public schools as places of worship (after hours) an unconstitutional restriction on freedom of religion.

A federal appeals panel could reverse a judge’s decision from earlier this year that allowed New York City public schools to be used for worship services after-hours, according to the Albany Times-Union.

In June, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska issued a permanent injunction allowing worship in public school buildings, but two of three judges of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled to uphold the ban before, and seemed likely to do it again.

According to the Times-Union, Judge Guido Calabresi told Bronx Household of Faith attorney Jordan Lorence that he was "troubled by your argument that the Constitution requires a city to allow a religion to do what you do simply because it is a religion."

Bronx Household has called the ban an unconstitutional restriction on freedom of religion.

The question of whether religious groups are allowed to practice on city property has been bounced around the courts for nearly two decades. For the last ten years, Bronx Household has been conducting services at a city school.

The judges had ruled last year that letting schools become makeshift churches would violate the Constitution's establishment clause, which says that Congress cannot make a law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise of one, according to the Times-Union.

The appeals court did not immediately rule.

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