To the surprise of some observers and despite having dozens of co-sponsors, on Friday the NYC Council refused to endorse a resolution in support of a pending state bill that would allow churches to hold services in public school buildings. Religious groups are being booted from city school premises after the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court’s ruling that they should not be allowed to rent or have free access to public school spaces.
Andy Humm reports at Gay City News that the resolution was done in by complaints from openly gay Queens Councilman Daniel Dromm:
Dromm wrote to Council colleagues, “I believe allowing churches that preach virulent homophobia in public schools violates not only the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause but also New York City law.” Several students from the Bronx High School of Science testified against the resolution. “If someone is excluded because of sexual orientation, it is a violation of the school’s administrative code,” said Diego Velasquez. “Everyone is supposed to feel welcome. No one in the school is above the administrative code,” including outside groups. Bronx Science does not now have a church worshipping in its school, in part because the school is utilized by students engaging in extracurricular activities on Saturdays and Sundays. But any empty space in the school could be requested by a church whenever classes are not in session under the new state bill. The religious groups using the schools as their churches are capitalizing on the lack of after-school and weekend activities available to students in schools serving poorer students.
Dromm: “I am frustrated that sometimes my colleagues don’t seem to take these churches’ virulent homophobia as seriously as it should be taken. It is an outrage that progressive people aren’t as outraged as is necessary. These issues are at the core of determining whether you’re a progressive.”
Last month anti-gay hate groups led a coalition of local church members in a march over the Brooklyn Bridge to express support for the bill. FRC head Tony Perkins and other leading opponents of New York’s recent marriage equality law have loudly lobbied Albany for the bill’s passage.