Saturday, January 21, 2012

Religious Bigotry in NYC

Although I don’t live in New York City, I am in the greater metropolitan area and am familiar with what’s going on in the Big Apple. In general, I like some of what Mayor Bloomberg is doing, such as trying to improve public school education even if it means taking on the powerful teachers unions. There are, of course, some things he’s doing that I don’t like.

Sadly, Mayor Bloomberg has exhibited egregious religious bigotry in that the City revoked the right for churches and religious organizations to meet in public schools. These congregations meet when schools are closed and unused, they pay fair market rent, and the Supreme Court has ruled that renting public spaces to churches and religious organizations is constitutional. Moreover, Bloomberg’s ban will cost the city millions of dollars of lost revenue. What is he thinking? It’s a lose/lose proposition!

I’m surprised that Bloomberg, coming from a religious and ethnic group that has suffered persecution for thousand of years, from Haman to Hitler, would engage in such behavior. If he’s worried about the Constitution, it has been clearly established that renting to religious groups does not violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution as long as certain conditions are met. In addition, these churches and groups often are located in some of the worst neighborhoods in the city, ministering to those most in need. They work to reduce crime and provide services that help the city overall. So I don’t know where Bloomberg is coming from, except that this is a case of pure religious bias.

When clergy and other people peacefully protested against this ruling, they were summarily arrested. Since when did kneeling in prayer in public become illegal? Under Bloomberg, New York City is becoming a police state in which congregations are being thrown out of spaces they have paid fair market rent for years to use, and clergy are being arrested for exercising their constitutional right to free speech and assembly. I hope Bloomberg and the City Council see the error of their ways and reverse this terrible decision. I also hope no more clergy and other peaceful protestors get arrested and mistreated for exercising their constitutional rights.

Please pray for New York City as well as the rest of the country.

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