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Pastor, Church & Law

written by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

Recurring Use of Public Property by Religious Congregations for Religious Services

Volume 4 . Chapter 14 . § 14-05
Key point 14-05. The First Amendment permits religious congregations to use public property for church services so long as the use is temporary and the congregation pays fair rental value.

May public property ever be utilized for religious services? In a leading decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that "religious groups who fully reimburse school boards for related out-of-pocket expenses may use school facilities on a temporary basis for religious services as well as educational classes." The court concluded that such a practice did not violate the First Amendment's establishment clause. It applied the three-part test announced by the Supreme Court in the Lemon case. First, the court observed that "there was a secular purpose in leasing ...

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