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Judge gives NYC churches access to public schools

Associated Press Modified: February 24, 2012 at 6:15 pm •  Published: February 24, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — Churches won back the right to hold services in the city's public schools when a federal judge issued an injunction Friday against its no-worship policy.

The city said it would immediately appeal, guaranteeing that a case that has gone back and forth for 17 years will continue.

District Judge Loretta Preska ruled in Manhattan that a tiny evangelical Christian church, the Bronx Household of Faith, has a good chance of ultimately winning its lawsuit claiming the policy violates freedom of religion.

City lawyers had argued that the church's use of a public grade school ran afoul of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, the prohibition against governmental endorsement of religion.

But the judge said, "In this court's view, losing one's right to exercise freely and fully his or her religious beliefs is a greater threat to our democratic society than a misperceived violation of the Establishment Clause."

A Bronx Household lawyer, Jordon Lorence, said the church welcomed the latest decision.

"The city can't single out religious expression and treat it worse than the expression of everybody else," Lorence said in a statement. "The court's order allows churches and other religious groups to meet in empty school buildings on weekends just as non-religious groups do while the lawsuit proceeds."

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