Worthy Christian News » US News » ACLJ Secures Federal Appeals Victory in NY Religious Discrimination Case
May 30, 2001
(Hauppague, New York) -- The American Center for Law and Justice, an international public interest law firm, announced today that a federal appeals court has overturned a lower court ruling clearing the way for a Long Island, New York church and its pastor to lawfully use facilities owned and operated by the Town of Babylon.
"We are delighted that the federal appeals court decided that the policy in place in Babylon was unconstitutional,â€ said Vincent P. McCarthy, Senior Counsel of the ACLJ, which represents the church and the pastor. â€œIt was our position from the very start that the town was wrong in denying our client equal access to town facilities. It was clear that since the town opened its facilities to a wide variety of organizations, it could not legally turn away this church and its pastor because of the organization's religious mission or religious speech. We are gratified that the federal appeals court acted properly to protect the constitutional rights of our client.â€
The ACLJ filed suit in November 1999 In U.S. District Court in Hauppague, Long Island against the Town of Babylon on behalf of Pastor John Amandola and his Christian church, Romans Chapter Ten Ministries, which is located in the Town of Babylon. In 1998, town officials granted Amandola and the church permission to use the Town Hall Annex for religious services twice a week -- on Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings. The complaint contended that the pastor and the church used the Town Hall Annex only twice -- on January 4th and 11th 1999 -- before being told by town officials that they could no longer use the facility.
According to the complaint, the pastor was told the church could no longer use the facility because of the "separation of church and state" and that town officials were prohibiting further use of the facility by the church because they were under pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union to deny the church access.
The complaint contended that the action taken by town officials was discriminatory and unconstitutional because town officials permitted the Town Hall Annex to be used by a wide variety of groups including the Boy Scouts and the local Diabetes Association, as well as sports and cultural organizations.
As part of the lawsuit, the ACLJ requested that the federal court issue a preliminary injunction against the Town of Babylon prohibiting the town from continuing its discriminatory action. Last year, a federal judge rejected the request for an injunction and the ACLJ appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
In a decision reached May 25, 2001 and released to the ACLJ today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit reversed the lower court decision and found that the Town of Babylonâ€™s facilities use policy is unconstitutional. At the same time, the federal appeals court ordered that the town halt its discriminatory action against the church and the pastor immediately.
â€œThis is an important victory for our client and for the First Amendment,â€ said McCarthy. â€œThe findings of the federal appeals court should send a powerful message to communities like the Town of Babylon not to discriminate against religious organizations.â€