NEW YORK (Feb. 3)
The American Jewish Committee announced today that, subject to certain qualifications, it will support and endorse President Johnson’s proposals which are incorporated in the Federal Education Bill now before the House of Representatives and the Senate. The proposals include $100,000,000 to help build “shared time” teaching facilities for both public and religious schools. The “stared time” system is opposed by other Jewish organizations as violating the principle of church-state separation.
The position of the American Jewish committee was approved last night by its board of governors, which adopted a lengthy statement in support of the bill to be submitted tomorrow to the House Subcommittee on Education, which is holding hearings on the measure. The testimony will be submitted by Morris B. Abram, president of the Committee.
The Committee takes the position that its primary concern centered on the “child benefit” aspects of the new bill, particularly the special educational needs of children in low income families. “It is our view that so long as the State or Federal Government does not aid religion or religious education or church-related institutions; so long as its grant-of aid is extended to the protection and improvement of the welfare of the child, it is irrelevant that the assistance goes to a person who happens to be of any one race, creed, or ethnic origin, “the American Jewish Committee statement declares.
However, the Committee’s testimony goes on to stress the urgency of “clarity and caution” in extending the “child benefit” theory to many new areas beyond established precedents. “We urge,” the Committee statement says, “that an effort be made in considering the present proposals to specify those areas which can be legitimately called ‘child benefits.'” The Committee will ask that these benefits “be clearly limited and related to the personal, physical, emotional and supplementary educational needs of individual children.”
To assure adherence to the First Amendment and to the separation of church and state principle, the Committee sets forth three guidelines as a basis for developing the present bill. These are:
“1. Aid through this legislation should insure that no religious institution may acquire new property, or expand already existing property.
“2. Funds allocated through this proposal should not be used for religious purposes.
“3. To the greatest extent possible and practicable, the expenditure or distribution of funds allocated through this legislation should be under the supervision of a public agency.”
The Committee also urges that provision be made for granting opportunity for judicial review, since there had been some question on the bill relating to the First Amendment issue. Under judicial review, citizens may bring suits to test the constitutionality of the law.