Authorizes the use of school buildings and school sites for religious meetings and worship when not in use for school purposes or when such service or worship is deemed not disruptive of normal school operations.
Ayes (11): Flanagan, Farley, Lanza, Marcellino, Maziarz, Ranzenhofer, Robach, Seward, Addabbo, Avella, Huntley
Ayes W/R (6): LaValle, Saland, Oppenheimer, Breslin, Serrano, Stavisky
Nays (1): Montgomery
Ayes (54): Adams, Addabbo, Alesi, Avella, Ball, Bonacic, Breslin, Carlucci, DeFrancisco, Diaz, Dilan, Espaillat, Farley, Flanagan, Fuschillo, Gallivan, Gianaris, Golden, Griffo, Grisanti, Hannon, Hassell-Thomps, Huntley, Johnson, Kennedy, Klein, Lanza, Larkin, LaValle, Libous, Little, Marcellino, Martins, Maziarz, McDonald, Nozzolio, O'Mara, Parker, Peralta, Ranzenhofer, Ritchie, Rivera, Robach, Saland, Sampson, Savino, Serrano, Seward, Skelos, Smith, Stewart-Cousin, Valesky, Young, Zeldin
Nays (7): Duane, Krueger, Montgomery, Oppenheimer, Perkins, Squadron, Stavisky
BILL NUMBER:S6087A REVISED 01/27/12
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the education law, in relation to authorizing religious meetings and worship in school buildings and school sites
PURPOSE: The purpose of the bill is to authorize the use of school buildings and school sites for religious meetings and worship when not in use for school purposes.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: Section 1 amends the opening paragraph and paragraph (c) of subdivision 1 of section 414 of the education law, the opening paragraph as amended by chapter 369 of the laws of 1977 and paragraph (c) as amended by chapter 345 of the laws of 2009, are amended to include:
The City of New York and community school boards and;
A provision that prohibits the adoption of restrictions to exclude or limit speech, during non-school hours, including speech that expresses religious conduct or viewpoints.
JUSTIFICATION: This bill would prevent school districts from excluding groups from meeting on school property because of the religious content or viewpoint of their speech, including allowing religious worship services.
Currently, State Education Law allows for social, civic and recreational meetings and entertainment on school property, as well as other uses pertaining to the welfare of the community. State law further holds that such meetings, entertainment and uses shall be nonexclusive and shall be open to the general public. However, certain groups or organizations are not always allowed to hold the types of meetings seemingly envisioned herein, including those with religious content or viewpoints.
For example, several years ago, a U.S. Appeals Court ruled that the Bronx Household of Faith church ("Bronx Household") ( based in New York city, was not permitted to use space in a Bronx public middle school for its Sunday morning worship service. Since then, however, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Good News Club vs. Milford central School that it was unconstitutional for a public school district in upstate New York to exclude from its facilities "a private Christian organization for children, and the Supreme Court further held in the Good News Club case that "by denying the club access to the school's limited public forum on the ground that the club was religious in nature, Milford discriminated against the club because of its religious viewpoint in violation of the free speech clause.
In light of Milford, Bronx Household re-petitioned the U.S. appeals court, which again upheld the school's policy banning the use of its
space for religious worship services, reasoning that "While the conduct of religious services undoubtedly includes expressions of a religious point of view, it is not the expression of that point of view that is prohibited by the rule. Prayer, religious expression of devotion to God, and the singing of hymns, whether done by a person or group, do not constitute the conduct of worship services. These activities are not excluded". Groups like Bronx Household should be allowed to hold and conduct such meetings, even in the event that such meetings include religious content or views in their speech, so long as these meetings are open to the general public. Some school districts have excluded groups and have thereby acted to regulate free speech and the conduct of such members of the public, potentially in violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the united States. This bill seeks to protect such organizations from these actions.
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: New.
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None to the state.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 6087--A IN SENATE (PREFILED) January 4, 2012 ___________Introduced by Sens. GOLDEN, DeFRANCISCO, DIAZ, GALLIVAN, GRIFFO, GRISAN- TI, KENNEDY, LANZA, LIBOUS, MAZIARZ, O'MARA, RIVERA, SAMPSON, SMITH, ZELDIN -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Education -- committee discharged, bill amended, ordered reprinted as amended and recommitted to said commit- tee AN ACT to amend the education law, in relation to authorizing religious meetings and worship in school buildings and school sites THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. The opening paragraph and paragraph (c) of subdivision 1 of section 414 of the education law, the opening paragraph as amended by chapter 369 of the laws of 1977 and paragraph (c) as amended by chapter 345 of the laws of 2009, are amended and a new subdivision 3 is added to read as follows: Schoolhouses and the grounds connected therewith and all property belonging to the district shall be in the custody and under the control and supervision of the trustees or board of education of the district. The trustees or board of education, OR IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK THE COMMUNITY SCHOOL BOARD, may adopt reasonable regulations for the use of such schoolhouses, grounds or other property, all portions thereof, when not in use for school purposes or when the school is in use for school purposes if in the opinion of the trustees or board of education use will not be disruptive of normal school operations, for such other public purposes as are herein provided
[; except, however, in the city of New York each community school board shall be authorized to prohibit any use of schoolhouses and school grounds within its district which would otherwise be permitted under the provisions of this section]. Such regu- lations shall provide for the safety and security of the pupils and shall not conflict with the provisions of this chapter and shall conform to the purposes and intent of this section and shall be subject to review on appeal to the commissioner of education as provided by law. The trustees or board of education of each district may, subject toEXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD13680-02-2 S. 6087--A 2
regulations adopted as above provided, permit the use of the schoolhouse and rooms therein, and the grounds and other property of the district, when not in use for school purposes or when the school is in use for school purposes if in the opinion of the trustees or board of education use will not be disruptive of normal school operations, for any of the following purposes: (c) For holding social, civic, RELIGIOUS and recreational meetings and entertainments, and other uses pertaining to the welfare of the communi- ty; but such meetings, entertainment and uses shall be non-exclusive and shall be open to the general public. Civic meetings shall include, but not be limited to, meetings of parent associations and parent-teacher associations. 3. NOTHING IN THIS SECTION SHALL AUTHORIZE THE TRUSTEES OR BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE DISTRICT TO ADOPT OR INTERPRET REGULATIONS FOR THE USE OF SCHOOLHOUSES, GROUNDS OR OTHER PROPERTY, PURSUANT TO SUBDIVISION ONE OF THIS SECTION, THAT WOULD RESULT IN THE EXCLUSION OR LIMITATION OF SPEECH, DURING NON SCHOOL HOURS, EVEN WHERE STUDENTS MAY BE PRESENT, INCLUDING SPEECH THAT EXPRESSES RELIGIOUS CONDUCT OR DISCUSSES SUBJECTS FROM A RELIGIOUS VIEWPOINT. S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.