The chapel was founded in 1955 by World War II veteran Bob O’Brien, who promised the Virgin Mary the creation of a shrine if he could safely return home. The original chapel was dismantled to make room for a terminal expansion for British Airways. The current chapel was rebuilt at a cost of one million dollars and contains a 16-foot statue of the Virgin Mary in addition to a white marble altar and stained windows. The rebuilt chapel is estimated to service thousands of people daily and is a popular wedding destination.
The chapel is one of the few places of worship in an airport designed for a specific faith. Most other airports in the United States that have chapels or places of worship are interfaith.
Brashich v. Port Authority of New York
In 1979, Deyan Brashich, a patron of the JFK International Airport, sued the Port Authority of New York because of the existence of the chapel. He argued that the existence of the chapel violated his First Amendment right to freedom of religion. The United States District Court of New York ultimately ruled in favor of the Port Authority, noting that the chapel only accommodated religious individuals and that it did not threaten Brashich's right to worship freely.
During the case of Hawley v. the City of Cleveland, the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals referenced the precedent set by Brashich v. Port Authority of New York when they ruled that a chapel located in a Cleveland airport was not in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
- "History of Our Lady of the Sky Chapel". Our Lady of the Skies Chapel at JFK. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
- Mayerowitz, Scott (2013-11-26). "Airport chaplains help fliers reach Heaven". The Denver Post. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
- Stoff, Joshua (2009). John F. Kennedy International Airport. Arcadia Publishing. p. 86.
- Deiner, John (1997-11-23). "A Wing And a Prayer". Washington Post. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
- "BRASHICH v. PORT AUTH. OF NEW YORKCiv. No. 77-6159". Retrieved 24 May 2014.
- Nelson, William (2003). Legalist Reformation: Law, Politics, and Ideology in New York, 1920-1980. Univ of North Carolina Press.
- "Jane Hawley; Eileen Roberts; and David Finley, Plaintiffs-appellants, v. City of Cleveland; Director of Port Control; Catholicdiocese of Cleveland; and Bishop Anthony M.pilla, Defendants-appellees". American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU. Retrieved 16 September 2014.