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Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/contact:larchstar@aol.com

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

July 19, 2012

RELIGION: "FREE EXERCISE" OR "ESTABLISHMENT" ?


MID TERM REVIEW

     I agree with Henry Stern's positive appraisal of Mayor Bloomberg's governance. I have one negative: his effort to bar only religious groups from renting public school facilities, when school is not in session. 
    
    Since World War II, people of various faiths have moved into new amity. This is not mere tolerance, but respect for differences, which is a hallmark of our city. Current  traces of hostility seem to come from those possessed of an exclusively secular ideology, who see any "accommodation"of religion as a newly perceived "establishment". Justice Kennedy of our highest court has characterized this as "a recent and,  in my view, a most unwelcome addition to our tangled establishment clause jurisprudence".

    Our Supreme Court  has a history of balancing the "establishment"  and 'free exercise" clauses. Our Federal District Court has recently declared the constitutionality of a Bronx Evangelical Church using a public school's facilities. I conjecture that the congregation, at issue, does not consist of affluent members, financially able to construct their own religious buildings. Rental of public school facilities enhances their freedom to worship, so basic in common practice, authorized by state law, and consonant with our nation's constitution.

    I think it quite out of order for Mayor Bloomberg to establish the city as plaintiff again, this time to appeal the decision of the District Court. A few year's ago, Mayor Bloomberg
enthusiastically supported the construction of a mosque near ground-zero in the name of our city's devotion to freedom of worship. Mr. Mayor, please apply that principle here.

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