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First Liberty Briefing: Can Religious Organizations Use Public School Grounds for Religious Activities?

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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. The local school board denied the application and use of school property.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

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.

Can Religious Organizations Use Public School Grounds for Religious Activities?

Image: Watertown School District

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.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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