(USA Today) 'Instant churches' convert public schools to worship spaces

There’s no tally of how many churches, synagogues and mosques convert public school spaces into prayer places for the nominal cost of permits and promises to make no permanent changes in the school setting. What’s clear is that there has been a steady rise in numbers as congregations find schools are available, affordable and accessible to families they want to reach.

Critics, including some courts, are concerned that these arrangements are an unconstitutional entanglement of church and state. They say these bargain permits effectively subsidize religious congregations who would have to pay steeply higher prices on the open market. They also note that the practice appears to favor Christian groups, which worship on Sundays ”” when school spaces are most often available.

Caught in the middle: churches such as Forest Hills, which spent $3,000 for a permit to use P.S. 144 from February through June and just renewed for July and August. For September and beyond, however, nothing is certain.

Read it all.


Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church/State Matters, Education, Law & Legal Issues, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

7 comments on “(USA Today) 'Instant churches' convert public schools to worship spaces

  1. Br. Michael says:

    [blockquote]They also note that the practice appears to favor Christian groups, which worship on Sundays — when school spaces are most often available.[/blockquote]

    Heaven forbid that a group would want to rent a public building when it is empty. That is the stupidest reason for an objection I have ever heard.

  2. tired says:

    The critics are unreasonable – they sound very anti-religion to me. For example, one objection is that: “these bargain permits effectively subsidize religious congregations…”

    But if this is the real problem, then a more appropriate criticism is that the school should charge competitive rates for the day, not that the renter’s non-interfering use is somehow inherently impermissible at that price.

    Note that the article itself reports that afterwards “…P.S. 144 looks like its Monday-morning self once more.”


  3. francis says:

    The real rub here is that the tradition of Sunday as a non-work day is what really gives the churches the fantastic edge of being able to use this extremely valuable, yet unused, and unwanted space. Rent it to someone else.

  4. Marie Blocher says:

    It would appear to me that, in these budget restrictive times, school districts all over the country ought to be interested in renting the empty time slots to anyone with the cash to pay a reasonable rate, and the responsibility to clean up after themselves when done, whether it is the AA, a garden club, the local election board or a local church group.

  5. Cennydd13 says:

    There is nothing wrong with a congregation renting a school’s gym, general purpose room, or audtorium on Sundays, and removing all religious items when they’re finished using the room, so there really is nothing which demonstrates any Church and State connection. Those who object to this have an agenda, and I strongly suspect that it has anti-religious connections.

  6. Undergroundpewster says:

    School districts might start having problems unless they draw up clear guidelines for those times when competing groups want to rent the space. They might have to be equal opportunity facilities.

    Imagine what would happen if the Polyamorite Church and an Episcopal church wanted the same space at the same time? Oh, I forgot, those two might not be incompatible. Okay, what if an Islamic Mosgue and +Gene Robinson’s church wanted the same same facility at the same time?

    Once school boards are asked to have clear cut guidelines, most will stop renting the buildings to avoid the hassle of drawing up these somewhat tricky documents.

  7. Cennydd13 says:

    We don’t have that problem, since the school board only rents out a small part of our junior high school building (the GP Room), and then only for two hours on Sunday morning……which leaves plenty of time for other groups to use the facility. No conflicts here.