WASHINGTON (Oct. 15)
The American Jewish Congress and the American Civil Liberties Union today requested the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of various aspects affecting the general issue of religion in public schools, all of the cases arising from rulings by the Supreme Court of the State of Florida.
According to the joint AJC-ACLU appeal, the Florida court has upheld the practices of Bible reading and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in the public schools, has allegedly permitted the conduct of high school graduation exercises” in the form of Protestant religious services,” has authorized “a religious census of pupils,” and has permitted “a religious test for teachers.”
The Supreme Court announced last week that it would consider some wide aspects of the church-state issue, during this term, specifically giving attention to the constitutionality of Bible-reading and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in public schools. These issues involved previous lower court rulings in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The High Tribunal, however, did not touch upon the Florida cases.
The Congress-ACLU appeal today stressed that it was “not an attack on religion” but rather “an effort to strengthen the constitutional principle of separation of church and state — the best guarantee of religious freedom for all Americans.”
The appeal was filed by Leo Pfeffer, general counsel of the American Jewish Congress, acting as chief attorney for four parents of school children in Dade County (Miami), Florida. Two of the parents are Jewish, one is a Unitarian, and the fourth declared himself an agnostic.