Tebowing. It’s a menace to society. So says the police department in New York City.
Police arrested 43 New York City pastors and lay people on Jan. 12 who were protesting the city’s ban on church use of public schools for worship services. The ban is scheduled to go into effect Feb. 12.
The arrests came after more than 200 people gathered in the rain outside a Bronx public school where New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was giving his state of the city address. After singing songs and cheering speeches, protesters walked out in orderly groups of five to eight to kneel in front of barricades and pray. Police warned them to leave and then made arrests on charges of disorderly conduct.
The city of New York is running a huge deficit. It needs money. But it does not need it badly enough to let churches rent abandoned public school buildings.
Here is the issue.
The New York Board of Education has 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. If the ban prevails, more than 150 congregations will have to move to other meeting space starting next month — and that’s hard to find in New York City.
The week before, police arrested New York City Councilman and pastor Fernando Cabrera, pastor Bill Devlin, and five others on charges of “criminal trespassing.” Their alleged trespass was kneeling and singing two hymns outside the doors of the New York City Law Department. Police held them in custody for three hours.
Their prayers were answered. Partially.
The following day, the New York Housing Authorities reversed its position to evict churches that meet inside community centers. Board of Education officials stuck with their ban on churches, though, saying it will protect the minds of “impressionable youth.”
Ah, yes. For the children. Keep them from going to church.
Bronx pastor Dimas Salberrios said the ban would be particularly harmful in poorer communities: Churches in boroughs like Queens and the Bronx successfully battle crime and poverty, and uprooting them is “destructive.” He pointed to lower crime rates, help for the poor and homeless, and educational assistance for children as examples of what churches contribute.
This argument fell on deaf ears. The ban will remain in place.