NEW YORK (Nov. 8)
A variety of Protestant, Jewish and civil rights agencies throughout New York State hailed today the defeat in the state-wide referendum yesterday of a proposed new state constitution which would have eliminated a 73-year-old ban on use of public funds for sectarian schools the so-called Blaine Amendment.
The battle over the draft charter, which had evoked a sharp split in the New York Jewish community which found Orthodox Jews allied with Catholics in support of the draft, ended with more than 3, 250, 000 votes against it out of some 4, 500, 000 votes cast. The negative vote outside New York City was heavier than the vote in the city, where the proposal was defeated in all five boroughs, including those with heavy Catholic representation.
Despite the heavy anti-charter vote, leaders of both the Republican and Democratic parties said they would push for an amendment repealing the Blaine Amendment when the New York Legislature reconvenes in January.
The American Jewish Congress, one of the groups that opposed the draft, said that the vote proved that New Yorkers “of all races and religions are deeply committed to the principle of church-state separation,” adding that the “one great issue” in the vote was the proposed elimination of the Blaine Amendment, and that “it was on this issue that the people cast their ballots.” The statement cited the simultaneous approval of the proposed $2, 500, 000, 000 transit bond issue as proof that New Yorkers were “willing to pay taxes for vitally needed improvements, but not for private and parochial schools.” The statement also expressed the hope that New York politicians would accept the vote and not seek to achieve abolition of the ban on state aid to such schools by other means.
However, one of the Orthodox Jewish leaders who supported the draft constitution, Rabbi Morris Sherer, president of Agudath Israel of America, blamed the defeat of the charter on “the manner in which its opponents succeeded in subtly projecting the constitution’s image as a Catholic document, thus distorting the basic American issue involved.” He also attributed the defeat at the polls on the fact that the constitution draft had been presented as a single “Package” thus leading to “public confusion” on the principal issues involved. He predicted that the issue will be put before the voters again in 1969 and that, then, the Blaine Amendment will be repealed.