Menu JTA Search

Philadelphia Refuses to Free Students for Religious Study Citing Church-state Principle

The Philadelphia Board of Education yesterday emphatically vetoed the proposal that high school students be released one hour a week to attend religious instruction classes, thus bringing to an end the aggressive campaign conducted with this in view by a number of Christian ministers. When the subject was first broached, the Philadelphia branch of the United Synagogue of America had protested, and rabbis and the Jewish press had criticized the proposal.

When the plan was first submitted, its backers claimed that they had the support of a number of rabbis and Jewish leaders, but this was later denied. The Board of Education rejected the plan by a unanimous vote on the grounds that it “ignores and directly contravenes the principle of separation of Church and State and that it would have a tendency to divide pupils into sectarian groups.” It had originally been vetoed by a sub-committee of the Board of Education, of which Dr. Solomon Solis Cohen was a member.

The text of the Board’s veto declared that “the proposal ignores a fundamental principle of the government that Church and State be kept separate. The action suggested is impracticable by reason of its interference with discipline and with the roster of instruction; moreover, it is objectionable because of its tendency to divide pupils into sectarian groups during the term they are under the charge of the Board of Education, a course repugnant to the spirit of our democratic institutions.” The veto further declared that the school day was already short enough and that more time off is impossible, but that after school there is time for any activities the students or their parents may desire. It pointed out, too, that Sunday schools and week-day schools of several denominations were already successfully functioning. In conclusion the veto declared that “the home, the school, the church and the state has each its individual responsibility which cannot be shifted to any of the other agencies without serious injury to the community.”

NEXT STORY