Friday, January 27, 2012

Churches renting schools: CMS says amen

The U.S. Supreme Court recently sided with New York City officials who say letting churches worship in school buildings violates the separation of church and state.  But Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools doesn't plan to change its practice of letting churches rent space after hours,  officials said this week.

The subject came up during an update on the district's  "community use of schools"  program at Tuesday's school board meeting.  CMS leaders acknowledged the ruling,  but said they don't believe it precludes CMS from continuing to count houses of worship among the  "educational, recreational, civic and cultural activities"  considered acceptable.

"We treat it the same as Mrs. Smith's yoga class,"  said Guy Chamberlain,  the associate superintendent in charge of buildings.

Board member Tim Morgan said he's relieved,  because many south suburban churches count on renting space in schools during their start-up years,  then moving into their own facilities when they can afford it.

In another mop-up item from Tuesday's meeting:  The proposed cell-phone stipend that generated so much buzz on this blog over the weekend was removed from the agenda.  No word on if or when it might reappear.


Wiley Coyote said...


All it will take is one person to complain, get the ACLU involved and your relief will immediately go away.

I read this story just before reading this blog a few minutes ago:

Atheist teen forces school to remove prayer from wall after 49 years



CRANSTON, R.I. — She is 16, the daughter of a firefighter and a nurse, a self-proclaimed nerd who loves Harry Potter and Facebook. But Jessica Ahlquist is also an outspoken atheist who has incensed this heavily Roman Catholic city with a successful lawsuit to get a prayer removed from the wall of her high school auditorium, where it has hung for 49 years.

A federal judge ruled this month that the prayer’s presence at Cranston High School West was unconstitutional, concluding that it violated the principle of government neutrality in religion.

For Jessica, who was baptized in the Catholic Church but said she stopped believing in God at age 10, the prayer was an affront. “It seemed like it was saying, every time I saw it, ‘You don’t belong here,’ ” she said the other night during an interview at a Starbucks here.

Who knows. Maybe there's an atheist out there who would like to have two ministers removed from the BOE because their presence violates the separation of church and state?

With the way wacky rulings have been going recently from federal judges and SCOTUS, you never know......

Anonymous said...

There shouldn't be an issue at all regarding the renting of schools to any responsible group.

That being said, I don't like the fact that some schools allow the church to keep their banner up all week long.

Anonymous said...

The key distinction between the New York ruling and CMS decision is that CMS is RENTING the facilities, therefore it is a business transaction and does not imply in any way that CMS endorses any particular church or religion. If CMS simply allowed them to use district facilities without compensation, then it would be subject to the SCOTUS ruling.

John said...

The ultimate irony is in the fact that in many early communities, Churches were built first and the schools met in THEM!

democracy said...

Wiley Coyote opines about the “wacky rulings” of federal judges and the Supreme Court on the issues of religious freedom and government sponsorship of religion.

What’s “wacky” (as usual) is Wiley’s dogmatism and his misrepresentation of the high school prayer case from Cranton, Rhode Island.

Here’s the headline of Amy Goodnough’s article as it appeared in the New York Times:

“Student Faces Town’s Wrath in Protest Against a Prayer”

And here’s some of the article that Wiley omitted:

* “Jessica has received online threats and the police have escorted her at school.”
* “The prayer, eight feet tall, is papered onto the wall in the Cranston West auditorium, near the stage.”
* “In Cranston, the police said they would investigate some of the threatening comments posted on Twitter against Jessica, some of which came from students at the high school.”
* “Raymond Santilli, whose family owns one of the flower shops that refused to deliver to Jessica, said he declined for safety reasons.”

* A state legislator called Jessica (the plaintiff in the case) “an evil little thing” on a radio talk show.

* “three florists refused to deliver her roses sent from the Freedom From Religion Foundation”

I wonder why Wiley left out the parts with the hate and vitriol?

Wiley’s comment also neglects what the federal judge actually ruled in the Cranston case.

The judge noted, for example that at one of the first School Committee public hearings on the high school prayer “The first two speakers were the Reverend Dr. Donald Anderson, Executive Minister of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, and Rabbi Amy Levin of Temple Torat Yisrael in Cranston, Vice President of the Rhode Island Board of Rabbis, both of whom expressed the point of view that the Prayer Mural should be altered or removed.”

Moreover, the judge wrote that “To examine the secularness of Cranston West’s Prayer Mural,one must reflect upon almost fifty years of history. The purposes of the Prayer, when drafted, and the Prayer Mural, when installed, were clearly religious in nature. No amount of debate can make the School Prayer anything other than a prayer, and a Christian one at that. Its opening, calling upon the 'Heavenly Father,' is an exclusively Christian formulation of a monotheistic deity, leaving out, inter alia, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and atheists alike.”

He added, “the reliance on God’s intervention as the way to achieve those goals is not consistent with a secular purpose...its impact is to advance religion.”

If that wasn’t enough, the judge cited this piece from Engel v. Vitale (1962):

“By the time of the adoption of the Constitution, our history shows that there was widespread awareness among many Americans of the dangers of a union of Church and State. These people knew, some of them from bitter personal experience, that one of the greatest dangers to the freedom of the individual to worship in his own way lay in the Government’s placing its official stamp of approval upon one particular kind of prayer or one particular form of religious services. ... The Constitution was intended
to avert a part of this danger by leaving the government of this country in the hands of the people rather than in the hands of any monarch. But this safeguard was not enough. Our Founders were no more willing to let the content of their prayers and their privilege of praying whenever they pleased be influenced by the ballot box than they were to let these vital matters of personal conscience depend upon the succession of monarchs.”

Now, maybe Wiley thinks the Constitution –– and the freedoms and protections it affords ALL citizens –– is “wacky.”

I respectfully disagree.

Anonymous said...

@Democracy - GREAT post!!!! Best thing I've read all morning.

Anonymous said...

As long as they rent the building to ANY group, regardless of their beliefs or membership, there should be no basis for a lawsuit that would hold water. HOWEVER, allowing them to leave up banners and advertisements ON SCHOOL PROPERTY can be seen as a problem. One school in Union County that rents space at a local high school to a church had such banners on the property. Someone must have complained or the administrators must have intervened because a couple of weeks later the banners were moved to private property across the street from the school property. As long as the government is not "playing favorites" there is no problem. Having a "Christian" prayer on the wall of a public school is a problem to not only non-believers, but to non-Christians as well. That being said, atheists cannot insist that government not EVER rent to a particular religious group for ANY reason because by doing so the government would be showing preferential treatment to the atheists...

Anonymous said...

Gosh if we could just get some more folks to rent the schools that would be revenue producing. Let them know that the Smith Language school is open for renting ! Tim I think their are enough church's in D-6 so thats not a valid point then again what is that comes out of your mouth? We are opening ourselves to lawsuits from this on after hours time frames a risk we dont need ! (NorthWest School of Arts )

Anonymous said...

Take the Broad Foundation Banners down as well in the schools. Those support a CULT of negative learning in our system !

Anonymous said...

The key word here is "renting". That should be no Constitutional problem. However, the signage should not be permitted throughout the week on school or public property. Sunday is fine - but the other six days certainly are a Constitutional violation, and a violation of city and county sign laws.

Ann Doss Helms said...

The banner question is interesting. Can anyone steer me toward specific schools that have church signs or banners?

Anonymous said...

Why is it that everything that offends people they think they have to do something about it. IGNORE it and go on about your business. There is alot of crap I find offensive, but I tend to ignore and go on about my life. Trying to change the world because it isn't YOUR religious belief just causes more problems. Stop bringing the focus to yourself, and you wouldn't be getting hate mail, death threats, etc.

Anonymous said...

China doesn't have this problem.

I doubt that Finland or Singapore do either.

What are they doing wrong?

Oh yeah, they actually use their schools to EDUCATE children...

Instead of using them as community centers.

How silly of them.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 8:29...
The churches WERE renting the school facilities in NY and not using them for free as you posted: The ruling means that dozens of churches that rent public school buildings in New York City could face eviction by the end of June.

Anonymous said...

One person should NEVER ever be allowed to dictate the wishes and values of an entire community and that inclues all future Jessica Alquists. The is absolute selfishness on the definition of the word.

Politicians win elections on the MAJORITY of votes so how has it become that one person can dictate to the entire community "I don't like it, I'll sue" attitude?


Anonymous said...

Tax every Church in America.

Wiley Coyote said...


Nice diatribe fraught with inaccuracies and ASSumptions of what you "think" I believe and why I posted an excerpt of a story I just read, that anyone with a 5th grade education could look up and read in entirety themselves.

Tim was "relieved" with Chamberlain's comment. I merely pointed out that - in fact - all it will take is one person and or the ACLU to fight CMS over the same issue of using schools for churches, regardless of whether they rent the facility or not.

The prayer story and this girl's involvement was another example of one person forcing change. Nowhere did I say I agreed or disagreed with it and there was no intent to leave out the rest of the story about threats because it had no bearing on making the analogy. Also, I was not making comments on the merits of her case. YOU chose to do that.

The size of the prayer, refusal to deliver flowers, threats, etc. have no bearing on the point I was making about an individual making a change in something that was in place for 49 years.

You even stated "I wonder why Wiley left out the hate and vitriol?". Now you know because it had no bearing on the point I was making. So much for ASSumptions.

Anonymous said...

Mark @10:58- This was not about one person being offended by something. It was about the law. If a majority wants something that is against the law/Constitution, the majority can not make it so.

Jessica Ahlquist stood up against something that many people would not because she knew that it crossed a line of state sponsored religion. Sure some people would just let it go, but our country is founded on principles of people standing up to something that the majority thought was right but they did not.


BUCKGUY said...

Ahhh yes I remember the good old days when we opened up every school day with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer. Wonder why we didnt have the discipline problems like the little brats of today do? Oh thats right we took GOD out of our schools. You get out what you put in.

Anonymous said...

Probably more a case where they have taken public education out of the schools and made it a social engineering, social services machine instead.

Anonymous said...

Actually in other parts of Charlotte, churches are finding movie theaters more welcoming than dealing with the CMS's beuracacy.

Anonymous said...

Ann- Providence High School has banners up all week for Elevation Church. I agree that leaving them up is inappropriate, but renting out the space is a great way to bring in some badly needed $$!

Reality Check said...

Anonymous at 11:44 AM (Steven)

"If a majority wants something that is against the law/Constitution, the majority can not make it so."

Incorrect: Ever hear of a Constitutional Amendment? If the majority wants something that is not currently a law, the laws of this country can be changed.

"Jessica Ahlquist stood up against something that many people would not because she knew that it crossed a line of state sponsored religion."

You -could- believe that, or you could more honestly believe that she stood up against something that she didn't like, thinking that -her- opinions (at 16 years old mind you) were more important than those people around her, in her community.

I will not take any of you "Separation of Church/State" people seriously until you get the words "IN GOD WE TRUST" off this country's currency. If God's name is good enough for your money, it's good enough for the wall of a public school where it has hung for 49 years.

Mind you, 49 years ago we didn't have the turmoil currently seen in this country, back when the school day began with a prayer.

Anonymous said...

Madrasas anyone?!

Anonymous said...


We did have problems back when there were prayers in school.

I went to school in a state that didn't give a crap about the law and went ahead and had school prayers well into the 1970's.

And there were razor fights in the halls and an eventual shooting.

It was an "urban" school with all the typical problems we still see today.

Only difference is that everyone had to say the Protestant Lord's Prayer.

Even the Catholics.

Of course, I refused.

And so did a friend of mine.

He got suspended, I didn't because I knew it was illegal to force me to stand and pray.

My friend's mother had to straighten out the principal on the matter of the law.

Then, except for the threats of violence from the religious kids, people mostly left us alone.

Wiley Coyote said...

Here are a few that meet in schools... Signs up?..we know of one of these as reported.

Welcome to Hope!
Hope Church has two main tracks that everything falls into:
Weekend Services: This is our opportunity to come together and celebrate the things God is doing in our lives and in our community. These services meet each week at 10am at Mallard Creek Elementary. The music will be passionate and the messages will creatively communicate the truths of the Bible.
Elevation Church
Providence High School
1800 Pineville Matthews Rd
Charlotte, NC 28270
Worship Experience Times
Sunday: 9:30 & 11:15AM
LifePointe Christian Church
meets at Southwest Middle School in Charlotte, behind the Steele Creek Branch Library, north of the RiverGate Shopping Center

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear that some do realize that our children and families had a much better life when God and prayer was permitted in the schools. I don't understand why there isn't an outcry to vote it back in the school system while we're trying to upgrade the education system. I say let every religion worship their own God, but as for America, our God's name will be allowed again as it once was when America's children had an opportunity to choose a good and healthy life because they were exposed to a higher power. Anonymous

Anonymous said...

Everye in the community should have the same access toa public building as anyone else. No more, no less. It's called equality.

Anonymous said...

The problem is not what WAS permitted in schools 50 years ago, but what IS permitted today.

More than "school prayer" has changed since the 1950's.

Or hasn't anyone noticed?

Anonymous said...

Stop arguing people!!! Churches renting CMS schools may constitute the first time that something ethical has occurred in the district since Peter Gorman left.

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful start! Now, can someone figure out who to rent the Education Center to and make it work?

Anonymous said...

Hey, I have a great idea. Let Scott Muri rent out schools to the churches and inflate the numbers so the district can show a gigantic profit.

Anonymous said...

Elevation seems more like a cult than a church to me. I'm offended they're allowed to use school property to line the pockets of Furtick. I would be less offended if CMS charged a base fee and got offered a portion of the gate from Elevation's use of any CMS facility.

Anonymous said...

So now you want to keep the public schools vacant on weekends and prohibit them from actually making some money for a change? Some of you are seriously in need of a life... And by the way, China is not the bastion of public education I would like to emulate.. Neither is S.Korea or Singapore.


CMS should not be competing with private meeting spaces, hotels, and conference centers where Churches could meet and benefit local business and our economy. Check into how much the Churches are paying for so called rent. Is it anywhere near market rate on a per square foot basis? If so why use CMS schools instead of state of the art meeting facilities? Hmmm, I would be surprised if CMS makes enough money to cover the cost of utilities and staff required to operate the facility. Just one more reason CMS needs more taxpayer money. Prayer should be promoted in schools by students and staff. CMS For profit prayer sounds like a Pharisee play to me.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I love it--- it means I can get into my school and work in my room on Sundays! And all the signs, etc. are put up on Sunday morning and taken down before they leave--you would never know they were there.

Anonymous said...

Was this post made on a slow news day? (yawn)

Anonymous said...

5:30 If you can get into your room while the Church is using the gym, can others get in too? Security in advance is better than after the front page story.

Anonymous said...

One more example of CMS not focusing on the classroom. The time spent renting our schools is time not spent by facility management types caring for our schools or our students. Any chance CMS will ever get it? Note to CMS: It's about kids learning! Where does the cash go? Do schools get it?

Anonymous said...

The Church uses the entire building--classrooms, auditorium, gym, etc. They have personnel at the entrance where the door is unlocked--all other entrances are locked. You are implying that the people renting are incompetent and can't secure the building properly and you are implying that those in building services don't know how to rent a facility. Not only are the facilities rented for Churches, but community groups rent the gym. A friend of mine teaches at one of the schools that has a pool and MARA uses the pool on the weekends. The SAT and ACT are given on Saturdays--Schools are used as voting places. Your implication is that ANY use other than school is a security risk or a distraction from classroom focus. A. Kids aren't in school on the weekends and thus not a distraction. B. The facilities are well cared for by all those who use them (from all evidence I have seen and trust me teachers would let someone know if their rooms were a wreck). C. The extra monies actually DO help in the classrooms--as mostly the suburban schools are rented, the extra monies help since they receive about $2K less per student than the urban schools. D. EVERY time a maintenance person has been in my room or my hallway this year from CMS he has been EXCEPTIONAL---from the HVAC to the general, they have been genuine and caring and hardworking---don't INSULT the hardworking men and women of building services who work hard with scaled back budgets to keep these very large and aging buildings up and running and looking good! E. The churches who rent the facilities--their congregations are getting a service--they save the cost of overhead on a building and get a facility that has plenty of space and amenities AND helps out the community by putting money into a school --a non profit helping a non profit-the congregations are always pleasant to deal with-- I seem to recall that "back in the day" in a community the church building served as the school house during the week (now it's vice versa)! It's not a statement--it's a great use of resources!!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Ann- Providence High School has banners up all week for Elevation Church. I agree that leaving them up is inappropriate, but renting out the space is a great way to bring in some badly needed $$!

JANUARY 27, 2012 12:45 PM

NOT TRUE!!! I teach at PHS and I have never seen a banner on the grounds or in the school anywhere all year during the week. Yes, on Sunday mornings Elevation arrives early and puts the big flags outside and constructs the entry signage, but it is ALL removed before they leave for the day and NONE of it is up when the school week begins.

Anonymous said...

Last two posts show the problem with this type of blog--anyone can say anything! Note that in Ann's front page story today she writes that a Your Schools blogger reported seeing the principal "cuddling her shiny new iPad all over campus" and using it to check clothing websites during a meeting.

Was the blogger really "reporting" when he or she wrote this? Did anyone verify that this had actually happened? If not, I don't believe it should have been included in the article. There's a difference between what someone decides to say on a blog and the actual reporting of facts.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 1:02...

...and your name ______ ?

But you're right. Anyone can say anything.

Tom Wickenburg

Anonymous said...

12:37 AM is a good example of CMS staff touting the company line. Probably the overpaid Director or one of his staff who manage this program. Whatever resources are put into this program are CMS resources not focused on classroom learning: management, planning, billing, utilities, contracting, cleaning, security, maintenance, and more. The people renting the buildings are our brothers and sisters and in no way have been deemed incompetent. They are obviously competent to rent facilities below market rate, though this keeps the tax coffers lower and keeps that money out of the business community. The CMS print operation competes with the private sector also keeping money out of the tax base and away from private printing businesses. How hard can it be for the government to price services or conference space lower than the private sector? No rent, no tax, equipment paid for by taxpayers and facilities paid for with taxpayer funded bonds, not to mention hourly wages, executive salaries and benefits paid by the taxpayer! These people should be figuring out how to live within CMS means, not competing with private sector job creators taking away revenue from the community. Just another example of CMS claiming success when they are not focusing taxpayer resources on educating little Johnny. How many more side operations does CMS have?

Anonymous said...

Was money allocated back to each school rented as a result of this program? We may be mistaken in believing funds actually make it back to benefit the school. Even at a breakeven point financially, CMS is investing resources in non-classroom activity. A private facility management firm could manage this and other facility management issues allowing CMS to focus on education. The CMS Capital program is successful in building schools. Why not contract operating school buildings? More educrats to develop a $1,500.000.000 growth plan.