WASHINGTON (May. 17)
National Jewish religious bodies representing all branches of the Jewish faith and national and local Jewish community relations organizations joined today in urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject a proposed Constitutional amendment that would declare that “this nation recognizes the law and authority of Jesus Christ.”
Rabbi Isadore Breslau, representing the Synagogue Council of America, and Leo Pfeffer, representing the National Community Relations Advisory Council, presented a prepared statement declaring that “Jews cannot in good conscience recognize the law and authority of Jesus Christ.”
“Every American Jew would regard it as an act of religious discrimination to be deprived of the cherished right to give wholehearted and unqualified allegiance to every sentence of the United States Constitution or to be compelled for conscience sake to make the slightest reservation in taking an oath of allegiance,” the statement said.
The American Jewish Committee, in a separate statement, expressed “unqualified opposition” to the proposed amendment. It urged that the proposed Senate Joint resolution to this effect be rejected because: 1. What it seeks to achieve is beyond the competence of civil authority: 2. Its purpose is inappropriate for a Constitution, which is the basic law of a nation consisting of many religious groups, denominations and sects; 3. It is in derogation of the accepted principle of voluntarism in religion in American life.”
CONGRESS ASKED TO FRAME “A SUITABLE OATH” FOR NON-CHRISTIANS
The Senate Judiciary Committee is hearing testimony on Senate Joint Resolution 87, introduced by Senator Ralph Flanders, Republican of Vermont. This resolution proposes that there be added as an amendment to the U. S. Constitution, a new section declaring recognition of “the authority and law of Jesus Christ, Savior and Ruler of Nations.”
The resolution also specifies that this shall not be interpreted as sanctioning the “establishment of any particular ecclesiastical organization” or abridgement of freedom of religion, speech or assembly; and empowers Congress to substitute “a suitable oath or affirmation” in the case of any citizen whose religion prevents “unqualified allegiance to the Constitution as herein amended.”
Joining in the testimony offered by Rabbi Breslau and Mr. Pfeffer were the 41 affiliated organizations of the Synagogue Council of America and the National Community Relations Advisory Council, coordinating agencies for the organizations representing the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform branches of Jewish life and national, regional, state and local Jewish communal civic organizations.
Reviewing the efforts made many times in the course of American history to incorporate references to Christ in the basic law, the statement of the Jewish organizations observes that they were invariably unsuccessful because the principle of complete religious freedom has always been regarded as too precious for the majority to infringe it in any way.
“It can be safely stated that every American Jew will pray fervently to the God of his fathers that the present proposal likewise will not be accepted,” the statement declared. Joining in the statement were: Central Conference of American Rabbis, Rabbinical Assembly of America, Rabbinical Council of America, Union of Hebrew Congregations, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, United Synagogue of America, American Jewish Congress, Jewish Labor Committee, Jewish War Veterans of the U. S. A.
Noting that the Jews of the United States will commemorate this year the 300th anniversary of Jewish settlement in America, the statement of the Jewish organizations declares that the occasion is one on which all American Jews will wish proudly and enthusiastically to reaffirm their “full identity with the land through which they have been so greatly blessed” and expresses the hope that the occasion may not be impaired by “the spectre of the proposal now under consideration by the Judiciary Committee.”
“PATRIOTIC” GROUPS SUPPORT MEASURE; ASSAIL INTERFAITH ACCORD
Witnesses representing extremist groups today sought to bring about adoption of the proposed constitutional amendment. One witness alleged that efforts of major groups to promote interfaith accord and separation of church from state were really “attacks on Christianity.”
A plea was made by a woman witness who said she wanted the subcommittee to “protect Christians from attacks by anti-Christians.” Material published by the American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League was cited in an attempt to show Jewish hostility toward Christianity. Among the extremist witnesses were: Mrs. P. De Shishmareff, representing the “Christian Patriotic Rally” and Mrs. Nancy Applewhite, representing the “Militant Christian Patriots.”