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Atlanta Jews Join Christians in Court Fight on Education Funds

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Three Jewish agencies were among six organizations filing a joint brief in the Georgia Supreme Court here today, attacking the use of public funds to support private sectarian education. Included among signers of the “Friend of the Court” brief were local units of the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and the Atlanta Jewish Community Council.

The brief, believed to be the first such cooperative action in Georgia by the organizations involved–which included the Georgia Council of Churches, the Bishop and Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese, and the United Church Women of Georgia–took the traditional position of “separation of church and state in the interest of both.”

The brief supported the position being taken by the Atlanta Board of Education in the first test case arising from Georgia’s recently enacted tuition grant law. The Board is seeking reversal of a decision in Fulton Superior Court, awarding to a girl a grant of tax-raised funds to attend a private school.

The tuition grant law, passed in 1961 and amended this year, limited educational grants “for the purpose of attending a private, non-sectarian school. ” The brief argued that both the Federal and state constitutions prohibit the use of such grants for a religiously oriented and sectarian school, such as the one in this case. The school’s promotion brochure describes it as “an educational institution where Christian faith and living are reflected in policy, practices and persons.” The school also gives courses in sacred studies and Bible, and teaches the divinity of Christ.

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