NEW YORK (Jun. 17)
American Jewish organizations expressed satisfaction with today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court outlawing Bible reading and prayers from public schools.
The American Jewish Committee expressed the hope that the American public as a whole will understand the basic issues involved in the decision, which it said “is a reaffirmation of the historic American principle of separation of church and state.” The Committee said the decision should encourage religious groups and individuals to intensify their spiritual and educational activities in church, synagogue, home and religious school.
The American Jewish Congress welcomed the Court’s decision “as one that will prove of significant benefit to the cause of religion and religious freedom in America.” The Congress’ statement said the Court’s decision strengthened the public school system “as the symbol of American democracy” and that the majority opinion is consistent with previous rulings safeguarding American religious institutions from interference by the state and state institutions from intrusions by the church.
The National Community Relations Advisory Council, a policy-planning and coordinating agency for six major national Jewish organizations and Jewish community councils in cities throughout the United States, welcomed the Court’s rulings as “a victory for religion and for religious freedom.”
“We believe that it will also be best for American education and American democracy,” the NCRAC said in a statement. “We pledge our cooperation with all religious faiths to help broaden public understanding of the Court’s decisions and their meaning for our children, our religious inheritance and our country’s tradition of religious liberty.”
The six national organizations affiliated in the NCRAC are: American Jewish Congress, Jewish Labor Committee, Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A., Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations and United Synagogue of America. The six national organizations and 57 of the community councils affiliated in the National Community Relations Advisory Council had joined in submitting a brief amicus to the Supreme Court in these cases.
The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith said in a statement that the ruling of the Supreme Court “is a strong reaffirmation of the principle of church-state separation. It preserves public schools from involvement in religious conflicts and competition and adds another safeguard for freedom of religion in the United States.”
The Synagogue Council of America said in a statement: “The concept of the separation of church from state has not led to the separation of Americans from God but has led to a genuine demonstration of our people in a more lasting union of America under God. Many of our forefathers fled systems of governments which prescribed for them religious observances which were not in accord with their own religious convictions. They came to these shores to worship their maker according to the dictates of their conscience. History has proven the wisdom of their faith. In our nation, religion separated from the state flourishes as nowhere else in the world.
The New York Board of Rabbis concurred in the decision of the Supreme Court. “It is our conviction that moral and spiritual education is much too important and too sensitive to be diluted and to be entrusted to a school climate where the very atmosphere and spirit of prayer and deep commitment to a personal faith are lacking,” the Board said. “Prayer and the Bible are so sacred to us that we consider it ill-advised to hand them over to the public schools which must abide by the American tradition of separation of Church and State. We feel that the Supreme Court decision is a decision not against, but for religion.”