The Liberty Christian Center in Watertown, New York, asked for permission to use the Watertown High School Cafeteria for its religious services. The local school board denied the application and use of school property.
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The Liberty Christian Center in Watertown, New York asked for permission to use the Watertown High School Cafeteria for its religious services. As their application stated, the worship services to be conducted in the public school cafeteria would include activities of: music, religious instruction, and Christian testimony.
But, the local school board denied the application, stating that since New York law did not specifically authorize religious organizations to utilize public school buildings, the application has to be denied.
The court reviewed previous uses of the public school cafeteria. It found that, among other uses, the school had been used to host a local talent night, which featured religious music, religious instruction, and even Christian testimony.
Since both the worship service and the local talent show shared a religious purpose and context, it was unlawful for the school to permit the talent show but deny the use of the facility for a worship service.
Some decry the use of a public school by a religious organization as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. That is simply not true. The First Amendment demands that the school board be neutral toward religion, letting the secular organization use school property but denying a religious organization the same use is not neutrality, it’s hostility.
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