January 13th, 2012
10:07 PM ET

Pastors protest New York ban on religious services

By Vivienne Foley, CNN

New York (CNN) -
Pastors and their congregants took to the streets of New York on Thursday to protest and to pray for Mayor Michael Bloomberg to reverse a ban on religious groups' use of public schools for worship service, scheduled to go into effect February 12.

"Throughout our history, schools have been used for all kinds of community service, including church service. Why, all of a sudden, they want to make it a crime?" asked Pastor Peter Kemp of Hope Chapel Church.

More than 200 people attended the protest outside a Bronx public school where Bloomberg was giving his annual State of the City address.

For two hours, protesters sang hymns, prayed and chanted "Freedom of worship!" while holding signs reading "Save the Church, Save the Community!" and "Closing Churches Embarrasses NYC!"

Pastor Jon Storck of Grace Fellowship Church said, "It's not just for us. It's for our communities that we minister in. We offer so much in the neighborhood, and we offer so much to the school that we meet in. The school doesn't want us to leave."

Storck was arrested for disorderly conduct along with 43 other people who linked arms in groups of five and left the secure, barricaded area to pray on the street, ignoring police warnings.

Jeremy Del Rio of 20/20 Vision for Schools believes that the ban will hurt low-income communities where most of the 68 congregations affected by the ban are located. "Mayor Bloomberg believes that children in New York City can't tell the difference between the church that rents the building on Sundays and the academic instruction that takes place Monday through Friday. New York is smarter than that. Our children are smarter than that. They know the difference."

The mayor's office declined comment.

The Department of Education announced the ban in December after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal on a lower court decision that the state of New York has the right to ban religious groups from using public property.

Jordan Lorence, an attorney from the Alliance Defense Fund, which has been fighting the policy for two decades, said that all legal avenues had been exhausted and that the only way to stop the ban was for Bloomberg to use his executive authority to change the Board of Education policy and allow religious groups to rent space in public schools.

"We benefit the community. Why can't we meet like everybody else? Why do you think that empty school buildings are better than having churches that are helping poor people that are helping people get off drugs, get out of crime and tutoring students of all faiths?"

David Garcia, a former gang member who now Ministers at the House of Worship Christian Center, believes that troubled kids will be the ones most hurt by the ban: "In schools there's a lot of violence going on. There's a lot of killing. Gang slayings and all of that. And we are trying to make a difference in the schools. If they open the doors to other people to borrow the schools, why can't they lend the schools to the churches?"

On behalf of the Department of Education, the New York Law Department provided a statement defending the policy: "We view this as a victory for the City's school children and their families. The Department was quite properly concerned about having any school in this diverse City identified with one particular religious belief or practice."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Church and state

soundoff (381 Responses)

    Albert Einstein: God is a Product of Human Weakness
    The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.

    if this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?

    January 21, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  2. Nate

    Do Muslims have the same right to open mosque in these schools? If not, churches should also not be allowed.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  3. Jesus

    If you still believe in me in 2012 you are an idiot. Is there any other time in history where people gave their money to imaginary friends?

    January 20, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  4. Mark Torrance

    Atheist's seem to find comfort in the logic and factuality of science and I used to believe that as well. Science , however fascinating, is really just reverse engineering God. Not a single person ever invented any scientific discovery. It was all already there, we just found a way to see it, measure it, label it and understand it's function. Newton may have put a label on gravity and used math to describe it but gravity already existed for all of time and is a tool in the creation that God made. Many think that science will someday disprove God but I believe the opposite. No matter how much we discover of black holes, big bang, expanding universe etc. we will never understand how it all got there. What is harder to me to understand is the thought that our physical world with it's laws and mechanics that can be seen and measured and even predicted could have all happened on "accident".

    January 20, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • bigdakine

      Mark, you're an accident. Deal with it. An asteroid doesn't take out the dinos, and mammals might still be little furry things scurrying about in the night. The Universe cares not one whit about you. It has been here forever and if your god doesn't need to have been created, neither does the Universe. 3000 years ago nobody knew why it rained, why the sun rose and set and why the moon had phases. So 3000 years ago people had rain gods, sun gods and moon gods and gods for any other phenomena they couldn't understand. Your god is similarly unnecessary.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  5. Mark Torrance

    @William – You're an idiot. Quote me the scripture that says killing children is good. ??? Here's one for you Matthew 18:2-6

    2) And Jesus called a child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3) And said, " Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4) Whosoever shall humble himself as a little child, the same is the greatest of heaven. 5) And whoso shall receive one such child in my name receiveth me. 6) But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."

    In short Jesus basically states that if you mess with children you will find a special place in hell.

    If you want to speak on a subject get some knowledge on it first. I'll be on the lookout for those passages you referenced.

    As for the actual subject of this story. I don't believe that church's, or any organization for that matter, should be able to use the property for free. Reasonable rates to cover expenses should apply to any non-school related function. I believe any organization, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or other religions should be able to do this as well. If a group of Muslims need a place to meet why not? While this one may be more controversial because of 9/11 people are free to be Muslim if they choose, Yes? Some seem to act like people will be roaming the halls trying to convert your children which is far from the truth.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • William Demuth


      God killed all the first born children of Egypt because he was mad at the Pharoh.

      That makes him a mass murderer of innocent children.

      Your fable is an embarrasement of psychotic behavior on the part of your creator and savior.

      It is all patently lies meant to keep the fools in line.

      In your case it seems to be working

      January 23, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • William Demuth

      And for whats its worth Mark, I know more of your fables than your whole family combined.

      Stop cherrypicking the propoganda and tell me why God killed all those children?

      January 23, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  6. Ksmith

    The whole religious vs non religious has gotten so out of hand. If an organization wants to pay rent to use a building that is not occupied at a certain time or certain day, why care? The students aren't being forced to participate. Besides, many churches use a school as a temporary spot until they have funds to get their own house of worship. What's next? Boy scouts and girl scouts can't use school facilities because a political group doesn't agree with them. What this country needs most is more compassion for one another.

    January 19, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      @Ksmith: You said, "If an organization wants to pay rent to use a building that is not occupied at a certain time or certain day, why care?"

      I agree, but that's the problem. A lot of these organizations pay little to no rent at all.

      January 19, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Because the organization sells a dangerous product.

      Would you let the KKK rent the schoool?
      Would you let the Nazi Party rent the school?

      Organizations that promote bigotry, hatred and lies have no rights at all.

      Let the cult build a building or keep their filthy lies and Bronze Age nonesense in the gutter where it belongs.

      January 20, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  7. Karl Nelson

    It sounds like Duckie is making up their own God. It only makes sense that God made man and man did not make God. However, some men believe that man made God it simply isn't true, creation itself demands a Creator. Therefore, people ought to quit making God into what they "beleive" and start finding evidence for a belief. God loves men to be sure, the evidence is that we are not all in Hell right now. However, God has set his own standards and they can be found if men call on him and search for him. The Bible can be found to be completly true. If you don't beleive me ask God himself, and he will reveal this to you eventually as it is written "every knee will bow in heaven and on earth ... to the Glory of God".

    January 19, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • bigdakine

      Karl, who created the Creator? And if the Creator doesn't need a creator, why does the Universe?

      January 20, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  8. Duckie

    It's funny how the church and it's people will show up to protest and demand changes be made of any law that inhibits thier ability to force thier views on others. They whine about not be allowed to pray to thier God in a building paid for by the public. Some of whom do not share your same beliefs. You say it's ridiculous that anyone would want to stop you from this practice. You claim your religious views should be protected. Well the God I believe in Loves everyone equally, yet it is you and your beliefs in your Hateful God that feel you have not only a right, but a duty to stop gays from marrying because you believe it's wrong. Well what I believe is you should get your religious veiws and beliefs out of our schools, out of our public places and out of my sight. I want to vomit when I hear you christians cry about persecution, face it you are the ones persecuting others and crying persecuttion at the same time when anyone tries to enforce what is the law of the land. Complete seperation of church and state.

    January 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  9. Hypatia

    Fine. Then all these pastors can ante up and pay proper taxes since they are unwilling to abide by the rules for non-tax status.

    January 19, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  10. dugee

    Religion appears to be equally a tool for the well meaning as for the misguided.

    January 19, 2012 at 8:19 am |
  11. Matthew

    This is the first thing Bloomberg has done that makes sense. No one is telling any church that they cannot worship. They just have to find their own place to do it. Remember Matthew 6:6 and stop all these ridiculous displays of your bronze age cannibalistic cult of blood and death. If the church is so vital and needed the lord will provide you with a place for it, if he is real.

    January 18, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • peopleperson

      How does that make any sense?!?!

      January 18, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  12. AndriconBoy

    God is everywhere, right? You're not restricted to paying him tribute in a church or on specific days of the year. People pray in their homes by giving thanks over the dinner table and kneeling at the side of their bed. People also go to their churches/mosques/synagogues/whatever for religious worship. You can even pray in your car, walking down the sidewalk, or in the elevator.

    So what freaking difference does it make that they don't want you using a public school to further your religious agenda?
    Why not go somewhere else? Why not go to or create a private school.

    That's what my parents did. I went to a private Catholic school for the first 6 years of my education, because religion and public school should NOT be kept under the same roof.

    So I fail to understand why people are upset about this.

    Go do it somewhere else and quit trying to make yourselves look like the victim.

    January 17, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • peopleperson

      The Bible says it is important that his people gather.

      January 18, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • William Demuth


      The bible also says killing children is good and masturbation is bad.

      Smells like cult mind games if you ask me.

      January 20, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  13. John


    January 17, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • cajunaggie87

      "the state of New York has the right to ban religious groups from using public property"

      Really? So basically, they are saying people cannot freely practice their religion in public....something doesn't sound right about that.

      January 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You're clueless.

      January 17, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Matthew

      Yes NY is allowed to enforce the 1st amendment, in fact it is required to. No one has banned the practice of religion, as much as they should. Maybe you should all go to the iinterfaith center near the WTC site. Oh wait you all protested that expression of religion.

      January 18, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • .......

      TROLL ALERT – don't bother viewing this garbage, click the report abuse link to get rid of this TROLL!

      January 19, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  14. myweightinwords

    Churches do not belong in schools. If they want to minister to at risk youth, they can do that from their own buildings, or homes.

    January 17, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Joe R.

      Newer churches can often be too large to be able to meet in a person's home, and not yet have the capital to have their own building, so those aren't always options. THe only option left is to rent or lease another venue until the capital can be raised. Furthermore, they are not holding church services during school hours, so the religious teaching and school teaching are not mixing in any way. I do not see the schools allowing churches to hold services during non-school hours when the school is otherwise empty as an endorsement of a religion, but rather as a business endeavor of sorts. Also, as stated in the article, banning the churches from meeting in the schools will have a negative impact on the community because of the good that a lot of churches do for the community.

      January 17, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • SeanNJ

      @Joe: It's not mentioned in this article, but I seem to remember hearing on local news that part of the reason for the ban was that the churches and church groups were paying little to no rent to use the school spaces. That's why they wanted to use them: they were cheap if not free.

      But, since the school district still has to pay for additional upkeep due to additional usage, it's equivalent to government-subsidized religious practice.

      January 17, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • myweightinwords

      @Joe, I'm familiar with the frustrations of a start up, having been involved in several in my life. We would never have considered trying to hold services in a school though.

      The problem I have is that these "churches" using these schools are not paying enough to even cover the cost of the overhead of opening the building for them, and that if any group other than a Christian church tried to use the facilities for religious services, they would more than likely be denied. Or, if they were allowed, the Christian community would get all up in arms over it.

      Imagine if a Pagan group wanted to use the football field to hold Samhain rituals? Or a Muslim group asked to hold prayers in the gymnasium?

      It is better to separate the two completely. A public school should be a place of non-biased, non-religious education.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  15. O.S. Bird

    I would have thought there were enough churches to handle the God crowd. In any event, I doubt the supporters of "church in school" would support "ANY church in school". Can you imagine the uproar if Muslims or Hindus or Pagans were granted teh same rights as Christians? What a laughable thought – it will never happen.

    January 17, 2012 at 2:22 am |
    • Laura

      This is not true at all. Other religious groups are being affected as well, and are protesting along with the churches.

      January 17, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Ksmith

      I consider myself a liberal and I support religous groups meeting in schools under these condition regardless of their beliefs. Assuming all Christians are unsupportive or other religions rights is like assuming all Muslims are jihadist. Some would protest against Muslims using schools as a place of worship, but there are those of us who would stand up against those who give our Christian name a bad one.

      January 19, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  16. Iqbal Khan


    January 16, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  17. Iqbal Khan


    January 16, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  18. Iqbal Khan


    January 16, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  19. Iqbal Khan


    January 16, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
  20. Iqbal Khan

    Voters Choice: Ron Paul or Bibi Netanyahu

    By William A. Cook

    Why invade Iran ? Ask first, why did we invade Iraq ? Why did we not object to Israel 's bombing in Syria ? Why didn't we object to Israel 's invasion of Lebanon or Gaza ?


    January 16, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • Reality

      Our War on Terror and Aggression:

      An update (or how we are spending or how we have spent the USA taxpayers’ money to eliminate global terror and aggression)

      The terror and aggression via a Partial and Recent and Not So Recent Body Count

      As the koranic/mosque driven acts of terror and horror continue:

      The Muslim Conquest of India – 11th to 18th century

      ■"The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "

      and the 19 million killed in the Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C by Muslims.

      and more recently

      1a) 179 killed in Mumbai/Bombay, 290 injured

      1b) Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh

      2) 9/11, 3000 mostly US citizens, 1000’s injured

      3) The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US troops killed in action, 3,480 and 928 in non combat roles. 102,522 – 112,049 Iraqi civilians killed as of 9/16/2011/, mostly due to suicide bombers, land mines and bombs of various types, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ and http://www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf

      4) Kenya- In Nairobi, about 212 people were killed and an estimated 4000 injured; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85.[2]

      5) Bali-in 2002-killing 202 people, 164 of whom were foreign nationals, and 38 Indonesian citizens. A further 209 people were injured.

      6) Bali in 2005- Twenty people were killed, and 129 people were injured by three bombers who killed themselves in the attacks.

      7) Spain in 2004- killing 191 people and wounding 2,050.

      8. UK in 2005- The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four radical Islamic suicide bombers, injured 700.

      9) The execution of an eloping couple in Afghanistan on 04/15/2009 by the Taliban.

      10) – Afghanistan: US troops 1,385 killed in action, 273 killed in non-combat situations as of 09/15/2011. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror

      11) The killing of 13 citizen soldiers at Ft. Hood by a follower of the koran.

      12) 38 Russian citizens killed on March 29, 2010 by Muslim women suicide bombers.

      13) The May 28, 2010 attack on a Islamic religious minority in Pakistan, which have left 98 dead,

      14) Lockerbie is known internationally as the site where, on 21 December 1988, the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 crashed as a result of a terrorist bomb. In the United Kingdom the event is referred to as the Lockerbie disaster, the Lockerbie bombing, or simply Lockerbie. Eleven townspeople were killed in Sherwood Crescent, where the plane's wings and fuel tanks plummeted in a fiery explosion, destroying several houses and leaving a huge crater, with debris causing damage to a number of buildings nearby. The 270 fatalities (259 on the plane, 11 in Lockerbie) were citizens of 21 nations.

      15 The daily suicide and/or roadside and/or mosque bombings in the terror world of Islam.

      16) Bombs sent from Yemen by followers of the koran which fortunately were discovered before the bombs were detonated.

      17) The killing of 58 Christians in a Catholic church in one of the latest acts of horror and terror in Iraq.

      18) Moscow airport suicide bombing: 35 dead, 130 injured. January 25, 2011.

      19) A Pakistani minister, who had said he was getting death threats because of his stance against the country's controversial blasphemy law, was shot and killed Wednesday, 3/2/2011

      20) two American troops killed in Germany by a recently radicalized Muslim, 3/3/2011

      21) the kidnapping and apparent killing of a follower of Zoraster in the dark world of Islamic Pakistan.

      22) Shariatpur, Bangladesh (CNN 3/30/2011) - Hena Akhter's last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl. Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh's Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public. Hena dropped after 70 and died a week later.

      23) "October 4, 2011, 100 die as a truck loaded with drums of fuel exploded Tuesday at the gate of compound housing several government ministries on a busy Mogadishu street. It was the deadliest single bombing carried out by the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group in Somalia since their insurgency began. "

      Continued below:
      Other elements of our War on Terror and Aggression:

      -Operation Iraqi Freedom- The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US Troops killed in action, 3,480 and 928 in non combat roles as of 09/15/2011/, 102,522 – 112,049 Iraqi civilians killed as of 9/16/2011/, mostly due to suicide bombers, land mines and bombs of various types, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ and http://www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf

      – Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan: US troops 1,385 killed in action, 273 killed in non-combat situations as of 09/15/2011. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed mostly due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror,

      – Sa-dd-am, his sons and major he-nchmen have been deleted. Sa-dd-am's bravado about WMD was one of his major mistakes. Kuwait was saved.

      – Iran is being been contained. (beside containing the Sunni-Shiite civil war in Baghdad, that is the main reason we are in Iraq. And yes, essential oil continues to flow from the region.)

      – North Korea is still u-ncivil but is contained.

      – Northern Ireland is finally at peace.

      – The Jews and Palestinians are being separated by walls. Hopefully the walls will follow the 1948 UN accords. Unfortunately the Annapolis Peace Conference was not successful. And unfortunately the recent events in Gaza has put this situation back to “squ-are one”. And this significant stupidity is driven by the mythical foundations of both religions!!!

      – – Fa-na–tical Islam has basically been contained to the Middle East but a wall between India and Pakistan would be a plus for world peace. Ditto for a wall between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

      – Timothy McVeigh was exe-cuted. Terry Nichols escaped the death penalty twice because of deadlocked juries. He was sentenced to 161 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole,[3][7] and is incarcerated in ADX Florence, a super maximum security prison near Florence, Colorado. He shares a cellblock that is commonly referred to as "Bombers Row" with Ramzi Yousef and Ted Kaczynski

      – Eric Ru-dolph is spending three life terms in pri-son with no par-ole.

      – Jim Jones, David Koresh, Kaczynski, the "nuns" from Rwanda, and the KKK were all dealt with and either eliminated themselves or are being punished.

      – Islamic Sudan, Dar-fur and So-malia are still terror hot spots.
      – The terror and tor-ture of Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo and Kuwait were ended by the proper application of the military forces of the USA and her freedom-loving friends. Ra-dovan Karadzic was finally captured on 7/23/08 and is charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the law of war – charges related to the 1992-1995 civil war that followed Bosnia-Herzegovina's secession from Yugoslavia.

      The capture of Ratko Mladić: (Serbian Cyrillic: Ратко Младић, pronounced [râtkɔ mlǎːditɕ], born 12 March 1943[1][2]) is an accused war criminal and a former Bosnian Serb military leader. On May 31, 2011, Mladić was extradited to The Hague, where he was processed at the detention center that holds suspects for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).[3] His trial began on 3 June 2011.

      – the bloody terror brought about by the Ja-panese, Na-zis and Co-mmunists was with great difficulty eliminated by the good guys.

      – Bin Laden was executed for crimes against humanity on May 1, 2011

      – Ditto for Anwar al-Awlaki on September 30, 2011

      January 17, 2012 at 12:05 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.