Ruling Touches But One Part of Church-City Relationship

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Yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court not to weigh in on a dispute between a Bronx religious group and the school department over whether the group had a right to use school property for after-hours religious services let stand an earlier appeals court ruling.

(During the Bush years, the federal government twice weighed in on the side of the religious group, and the Obama administration does not appear to have altered that stance.)

The ruling demarcates another section of the zig-zag border between church and state in New York: Religious groups can’t use school property, but they can receive faith-based social services funding from the city, and they enjoy property tax exemptions worth some $600 million annually.

In other policy news:

  • Over the last 30 years, federal housing policy shifted from building public housing for low-income people to providing the poor with vouchers that allow them to rent apartments on the private market. The idea was to “deconcentrate” poverty . A new report by the Urban Institute finds that HUD’s Moving to Opportunity (MTO) program was only a partial success: “Although MTO enabled families to escape from the most severely distressed neighborhoods, few enjoyed sustained access to high-opportunity neighborhoods, despite the provision of targeted vouchers and mobility counseling.”

  • Politicians are starting to weigh in on the news that police officers may have published offensive comments about West Indian Day paradegoers. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio says, “No one can consider him or herself a public servant who thinks and speaks this way,” while Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer released a statement that read in part: “I urge the NYPD to conduct a swift and thorough investigation to determine if these appalling comments were, in fact, made by police officers. New York must ensure a zero-tolerance approach to racist speech and action, whether it’s in the NYPD or anywhere else.”

    What are the rules cops are supposed to follow when it comes to expressing their opinions publicly? Check out this except from the NYPD Patrol Guide:

    NYPD patrol guide on public conduct

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