The rain didn’t stop a group of religious leaders and elected officials from rallying outside Morris High School in the Bronx today before the mayor’s State of the City speech. Around 100 protestors were fenced in a block away from the school chanting under a sea of umbrellas. They had trekked to the Bronx to speak out against the city’s ban on religious institutions using public school facilities. (In June, it was ruled by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that the city could “bar any religious worship in the schools because it appears to promote a particular faith.”)
“We’ve been good neighbors. We’re not here to ask for a favor. We’re here to ask for fairness,” shouted Councilman Fernando Cabrera, a pastor who was arrested last week protesting this cause. “What about religious equality?…Our soldiers have died for our religious freedom. We’re not going to allow one mayor [to stop that].”
Councilwoman Letitia James joined in on the fun, first praising the weather: “I’m glad it’s raining,” she said (Runnin’ Scared did not agree). “It reminds us of our humbleness…who we are, who we are here to serve…Think of all the suffering.”
She added, “Mayor Bloomberg, this policy has got to end, because there’s too much violence in our community. We know how to save them, because we know how to bring them closer to God.”
Brooklyn Councilman David Greenfield began his short speech saying, “I have a secret to tell you. My secret is I’m Jewish.”
Why was he telling this secret? “This is not a Christian issue. This is not a Jewish issue. This is not a Muslim issue. It’s an issue of fairness. … Our country was founded on freedom of religion,” he said.
Runnin’ Scared, wet and umbrella-less, got to speak to one protestor before seeking shelter inside the State of the City auditorium. David Haberer, a 59-year-old reverend who lives in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, said he showed up because he doesn’t want to see valuable programs lost: “The churches play an important role in the the neighborhood,” he said. “When you remove that, you remove stable institutions out of the community.”
Even though the protest was sectioned off away from the school, Haberer added, “[Bloomberg] knows we’re here. He’s chosen not to deal with us.”