New York City police arrested 43 pastors and church members who used the occasion of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s January 12 State of the City speech to protest the city’s ban on the longtime practice of churches using public schools for worship services. The arrests occurred at the Bronx public school where Bloomberg was speaking.
Over 200 people gathered to sing hymns and listen to some of the leaders of the protest, later breaking into small groups to kneel and pray in front of barricades at the school. After warning the protesters to leave, police made the arrests for disorderly conduct.
As reported by Baptist Press News, the city’s board of education had earlier “banned religious use of schools on Sunday mornings or at other times the schools are otherwise unused — even though the churches rent the space, dropping an estimated several million dollars per year into the city cashbox.” The ban will displace over 150 congregations that had used use school spaces, and with a scarcity of other available locales, many of the churches are in danger of folding if the city does not reconsider the policy.
A week before the latest incident, police had arrested New York City Councilman and pastor Fernando Cabrera and six others after they protested the ban — along with the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) decision to review its leases with churches renting space at community centers — by kneeling, praying, and singing hymns outside the doors of the New York City Law Department.
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Photo of Michael Bloomberg: AP Images