MIAMI (Dec. 20)
Introduction of religious doctrine into the public school curriculum could cause serious community tensions and create anxieties among children in the classroom, Judge Simon H. Rifkind of New York declared here at a meeting of the American Jewish Committee.
Judge Rifkind, who is chairman of the AJC national executive board, told the gathering that certainly, the public schools should give children an understanding of the historical role of religion in our civilization. “It is urgent that our children learn to appreciate the wide variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds in our national life,” he said. “However, along with this understanding,” he explained, “must go a clear recognition of the right of religious dissent, a freedom so many often ignore. We do so at our own peril, because the right not to believe is indigenous to freedom of conscience and basic to the vital American principle of separation of church and state.”
Pointing out that the drive to introduce religious instruction in the public schools “is related to the anxieties of our age,” Judge Rifkind declared “that it is not the function of the public school teacher to strengthen children in a belief in God, a task which is exclusively within the province of the home, church and the synagogue.”