Those working to overturn New York City's ban on religious organizations had a rough time at today's hearing before the New York City Council.
The Council is considering Resolution 1155, which urges the New York State Assembly to take action to allow religious organizations to use public schools for worship services.
For over 20 years, church rental of public schools has proved a mutually beneficially arrangement in New York City. Churches find affordable space to meet. School revenue increases.
Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defense Fund told the Council that no other city has had a ban and so far, none has been sued for violating the First Amendment.
Up until now, the primary rhetoric in favor of the ban centered on protecting the minds of impressionable youth. But today's hearing revealed deeper concerns and a fundamental anti-Christian bias.
In her testimony, Donna Lieberman, the Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, accused churches of being engaged in a movement to take advantage of public schools and influence young, impressionable students with a political agenda.
Others focused on Christian beliefs about homosexuality. Council member Jessica Lappin accused the church of hate-speech: "...some are using taxpayer-subsidized space to preach hatred of homosexuals and people of other faiths," she said in her statement.
In response, Pastor Robert Hall from the Bronx Household of Faith affirmed that churches welcome a wide spectrum of people. Lorence defended churches' rights to have membership requirements.
The hearing also exposed a fundamental class tension. Pastor and Councilman Fernando Cabrera said, "We have the rich telling the poor, 'You cannot worship in public spaces,' and I take personal offense at that."