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Inter-group Relations Seen Endangered by Church-state Issue

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Controversies over the use of public funds for religious schools may be creating an impasse “which will affect adversely our national educational system and our religious intergroup relations,” the First National Institute on the responsibilities of religious freedom was told here today. The Institute is being held here under the sponsorship of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

The Rev. Wendell S. Dietrich of Providence, in citing the danger, told the workshop that a Rhode Island debate over the provision of public funds for the purchase of parochial school textbooks in the Providence Catholic diocese had “stimulated certain religious tensions.”

The issue was discussed also by Dr. Lewis Webster Jones, NCCJ president, in his annual report to the annual meeting of the organization’s board of trustees. Dr. Jones said that a solution to such church-state problems could be brought about only “through patient and continuing conference and confrontation” among American religious groups.

He warned that failure to find “some consensus on such church-state issues as public support of parochial schools, religion and public education and Sunday closing laws, to mention but a few, pits American against American at a time when, as a nation, we should be working together as never before to combat threats to our freedom at home and abroad,”

Another workshop participant, Charles R. Weiner, majority leader of the Pennsylvania Senate, said that religious groups failed to make themselves strongly felt during consideration by the Legislature of harness-racing legislation in contrast to the strong pressure brought to bear by religious groups “when the Blue laws and Sunday closing were at issue.”

Mayor Arthur Naftalin of Minneapolis described the fight in his city against the Sunday closing ordinance adopted by the Minneapolis City Council this year. He called the measure “an improper invasion of personal liberty and, to the extent that it was designed for religious purposes, an improper use of our civil government.”

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