The National Association of Evangelicals expresses its disappointment in yesterday’s ruling by a federal appeals panel that New York City can bar religious groups from holding worship services in public school buildings when school is not in session.

Galen Carey, NAE Vice President of Government Relations, said, “In a convoluted and misguided policy the New York City Board of Education allows community groups to rent empty school facilities for a wide variety of meetings, which can include prayer, Bible reading and hymn singing, but not worship services led by ordained clergy.”

The NAE has joined several amici briefs at various stages of the Bronx Household of Faith case, which began two decades ago. The First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion and free speech prevent the government from discriminating against church services when they make their facilities available to other community groups.

Many congregations seek access to various locations for their religious worship services, either on a short-term or long-term basis, when they are just beginning to form, have outgrown their old facilities, or have suffered flood or fire. This ruling sets a precedent of unequal access to public buildings for churches and faith groups across the country.

“The New York City policy is wrong, and so is the Second Circuit’s decision to reverse a federal district court judgment in favor of equal access by all groups. By discriminating against churches and others who freely gather for worship, the school board and court undermine the rule of law,” Carey said.