Menu JTA Search

Court Dismisses Suit Seeking to Block Federal Funds to Religious Schools

Foes of the use of public funds for religious schools were studying today plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court the dismissal by a three-man federal court panel of a taxpayers suit to block federal funds for such uses. Those instituting the suit included officials of the American Jewish Congress.

The two-Judge majority ruled that the plaintiffs-a group of civic and educational leaders-had no standing to bring the suit before the federal courts and that the court therefore had no jurisdiction. The split decision virtually assured an appeal directly to the Supreme Court. The dissenting opinion, by Federal Judge Marvin Frankel. contended that the state allowed taxpayers to attack a “law respecting an establishment of religion” and that there was no legal basis for denying a similar right in the federal courts.

The suit questioned federal aid to religious and other non-public schools under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Under that law, such schools receive federal funds to finance guidance services, instruction in secular subjects and purchase of textbooks and other educational materials.

The decision was hailed by spokesmen for two Orthodox Jewish groups. Reuben Gross, chairman of the law commission of Agudath Israel of America, lauded the decision and urged the American Jewish Congress “to accept this further defeat, following its setback in the New York State Appeals court decision favoring state textbook aid.”

Marcel Weber, counsel for the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs, said his organization, which represents parents of children attending Jewish day schools, welcomed the federal court ruling. He said allowing the suit to proceed “would have opened up the possibility of the disruption of many useful programs.”

NEXT STORY