NEW YORK (Sep. 3)
“America,” the Jesuit weekly, was under new fire today from both Christian and Jewish sources for its editorial last week asserting that Jewish espousal of bans on religious practices in public schools was responsible for creating anti-Semitic reactions among Catholics.
The focus of the debate–the U.S. Supreme Court ruling outlawing the New York Regents Prayer in public schools–was the occasion, meanwhile, of a hectic meeting of the Hicksville school board in suburban Long Island. The Hicksville board decided to yield to a New York State Education Department ruling that it could not use a part of the National Anthem in place of the banned Regents prayer.
Dr. James E. Allen, New York State Education Commissioner, ruled last week that the Hicksville school board could not designate a part of the National Anthem–which contains the phrase “In God Is Our Trust”–as an official school prayer. In so doing he upheld a petition of Mrs. Miriam Rubenstein, mother of two Hicksville school children, opposing the idea.
The Hicksville board adopted unanimously a resolution stipulating that the 13,000 children in the school district will first offer the pledge of allegiance to the flag, then “have a period of silent prayer or meditation according to the belief or desires of the individual pupil” and lastly, sing a verse a verses of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
In another phase of the New York struggle, the American Legion of Nassan County, where Hicksville is located, began distribution over the weekend of 100,000 copies of a prayer which the Legion said school children could recite voluntarily at the beginning of each school day. The proposed prayer reads: “We, Thy school children, acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, Almighty God, and beseech Thy blessing upon us, our country, our parents and our teachers.”
A.D. L., PROTESTANT WEEKLY CHALLENGE ‘AMERICAN’; BOSTON ORGAN SUPPORTS JESUITS
The editorial in “America,” which had been challenged by a 1,200-word reply from the American Jewish Committee printed in the Jesuit periodical, also was criticized by Dore Schary, the playwright. Copies of his letter were distributed by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith as an official communication from the ADL to the Jesuit periodical.
Another denunciation came from the Protestant weekly, “Christian Century,” which printed an editorial under the headline: “Is ‘America’ Trying to Bully the Jews?” The Protestant weekly asserted that the purpose of the Jesuit editorial was to frighten Jews into deserting Protestants and other Americans “who support the Supreme Court ruling.” It called the “America” editorial “a thinly veiled threat to the Jewish community of this country.”
At the offices of “America,” the periodical’s editor, Rev. Thurston N. Davis, said that the magazine intended to print letters on the editorial for an issue or two and then probably publish another editorial summarizing reactions of the publication’s editors to the replies.
Support for “America” and “its advice to American Jews” was contained in an editorial in “The Pilot,” the official organ of the Archdiocese of Boston, the see of Richard Cardinal Cushing. That editorial said that “certain highly organized and single-minded people in the Jewish community” were portraying America Jewry as opposed to all religious practices in the public sphere. It said “other Jewish voices must be raised–some happily already have been–to make it plain that many Jews, like many Protestants and Catholics, are anxious about the increasing secularization of the American way and are seeking to find ways to reinforce the influence of religion in private and public life.”
Mr. Schary, in his litter, asserted that, if the ADL, as a “good friend” of “America,” had been consulted, “we would have advised them to forget the whole thing…It might have prevented the publication of a carelessly written editorial which serves to confuse and irritate a highly flammable issue.”
Mr. Schary added that “for a moment, the editors of ‘Americas’ have forgotten a plain truth–that bigotry rarely stems from the actions of the victim but from the attitude of bigots.” He called the editorial “a stunning setback to enlightenment.”