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Committee, Aclu Call for Defeat of Charter on Blaine Amendment Issue

The New York chapters of the American Jewish Committee and the American Civil Liberties Union voiced opposition today to the new draft Constitution for New York State which will be submitted to the voters on November 7. They based their opposition on the proposed charter’s elimination of the Blaine Amendment, the clause which bars the use of public funds for aid to church-supported schools.

In Albany, the State Congress of Parents and Teachers Associations also came out against the new Constitution because it would repeal the Blaine Amendment.

The executive board of the New York chapter of the American Jewish Committee voted overwhelmingly to oppose adoption of the proposed charter. “The serious deficiencies in the new document,” it said, “greatly outweigh the gains. We are particularly opposed to the repeal of Article XI,3, known as the Blaine Amendment, which could open the door to massive state aid to parochial and other non-public schools, thereby weakening the public school system. We are also concerned that the gifts and loan provisions may be construed to allow public financing of non-public school construction.”

On behalf of the Civil Liberties Union, Prof. Sheldon Ackley, chairman of the organization’s New York chapter, declared the group had decided “reluctantly” to oppose the draft because the school clause “would result in intolerable pressure on the State Legislature and on local school boards to appropriate funds in aid of parochial schools.” He said the chapter had found many clauses in the new draft for which civil libertarians had fought for years, “but the question of religious freedom is so important and overriding that we feel we can’t compromise on this principle and must therefore urge the defeat” of the proposed charter as a whole.

In an editorial prepared for publication next week. Commonweal, liberal Catholic weekly, criticized the role of the Catholic hierarchy on the new Constitution. It said there was a fundamental deficiency because the hierarchy was concerned with only one part of the draft. The editorial was to state:

“The voter registration drive being pushed through pulpit, the diocesan press, the parish hall lectures, the church-door handouts, the special programs being beamed over the church’s television facilities — all focus exclusively on Blaine Amendment repeal.”

It warned that “the inevitable conclusion is that Catholic interest in the Constitution is selfish and determined by the opportunities the new Constitution would open up in the way of aid to Catholic schools. It goes almost without saying that this is no reason to be for the new Constitution, any more than disagreement on the point alone is sufficient reason to be against it.”

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