The reverend Michael Faulkner wanted to start a charter school through his church in Harlem. But there was a problem: New York law bars religious denominations from running charters, even if, as Faulkner promised, the school would teach a secular curriculum.
So Faulkner—a one-time NFL player who ran for Congress in 2010—and his church sued.
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“The New York Charter Schools Act is nothing more than an attempt by the State to erect a barrier for those who express their religious beliefs from access to public resources that are generally available to all others,” read the 2007 complaint.
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The suit was voluntarily dismissed in 2009, and Faulkner, now running for city comptroller, described it as “dormant.” But a recent Supreme Court decision might mean that suits like that one have a better chance of prevailing.
Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer invalidated a Missouri rule banning a religious school from participating in a public program, and experts immediately noted it could be used to eliminate legal barriers to private-school voucher programs. The implications for charter schools drew less attention.
Some legal scholars argue that recent Supreme Court case Trinity Lutheran v. Comer could forge a path toward more charter schools overseen by religious groups.
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