ALBANY, N.Y. (Apr. 5)
Sen. Jacob K. Javits, New York Republican, called on the New York State Constitutional Convention yesterday to ease the state’s restrictions on public funds for religious and other non-public schools. The convention, the first in 29 years, has the task of rewriting the state’s constitution.
Sen. Javits cited Article XI, section 3 of the present constitution, known as the Blaine Amendment, which bans the use of public money “directly or indirectly” to such schools. He contrasted the state position with the wording of the First Amendment to the federal constitution which bans any law “respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The Senator said that he considered the separation of church and state “as a vital first principal of American society” and that he felt its observance in education “particularly in elementary and secondary school education, of the highest importance.” But he insisted that the state ban on aid “is clearly different” from the federal constitution’s ban.
He called the state law “too restrictive” and said it should be “modified in accordance with the federal principle.” He described the situation in the federal area as one in which the United States Supreme Court “has been moving in a series of decisions toward permitting governmental aid to the students in a parochial school for the study of secular subjects or for other secular aspects of his education but not to the school itself for religious instruction or observance.”
He noted that he had followed that principle in the Senate by supporting Federal aid to college students under the National Defense Education Act and the Higher Education Act of 1965 and aid to students from poor families in primary and secondary schools under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
He declared that the “dual school system” permitted in the United States was “so much a part of the educational structure” in New York state that the state “cannot afford to provide less than a high quality of education to all our children and I believe this can be done constitutionally if the federal practice is followed.”