NEW YORK (Jun. 16)
The American Jewish Congress and the New York Board of Rabbis yesterday proposed an amendment to the New York State Constitution that would, in effect, permit inter-religious adoptions when the child’s parents consent and when the welfare of the child is at stake.
This amendment was advanced by Leo Pfeffer, an attorney representing both agencies, at the hearings of the Temporary State Commission on the Constitutional Convention. In a brief submitted at the invitation of the Commission, Mr. Pfeffer urged the amendment of Article VI, Section 18, of the present New York Constitution which provides: “Whenever a child is committed to an institution or is placed in the custody of any person by parole, placing out, adoption, or guardianship, it shall be so committed or placed, when practicable, to an institution governed by persons or in the custody of a person, of the same religious persuasion as the child.”
Mr. Pfeffer argued that when a secular court refuses to allow an adoption, guardianship or grant of custody, consented to by the parents and not inconsistent with the welfare of the child, solely because of religious diversity, it is allowing itself to be used “as an engine for the purposes of a religious group to retain sovereignty over its subjects.”
“There can, of course, be no question of the right of a church to exercise spiritual influence over parents to induce them not to consent to the grant of custody, guardianship or adoption to persons or institutions affiliated with a different church. Nor can there be any question of the right of the church,” he continued, “to employ ecclesiastical sanctions to that end. Where, however, the measure proves unavailing, the state may not constitutionally impose the ‘religious protection’ provision as a bar. If it does, it acts as an agency of religion in violation of the constitutional guarantee of the separation of church and state.”