New Spanish Law Could Improve Climate for Jews, Interfaith Mission Finds

A four-man interfaith fact-finding mission that has just returned from Spain reported here this weekend that, while the new Law of Religious Freedom passed by the Spanish Parliament last July falls short of original expectations, the religious climate for the non-Catholic minority in that country seems likely to improve in the year ahead. The mission was sponsored by the Appeal to Conscience Foundation and was headed by its president. Rabbi Arthur Schneier, of the Park East Synagogue. The other members were Dr. Harold A. Bosley, minister of Christ Church Methodist, vice-president of the Foundation; Rev. Eugene K. Culhane, managing editor of the Jesuit weekly America; and Charles Taubman, a New York businessman. Both the latter are members of the Foundation’s board.

The group reported that most Catholic and non-Catholic spokesmen in Spain had serious misgivings about a section of the new Law that required non-Catholic religious groups to submit full membership lists and a financial statement before they can enjoy the privileges guaranteed by the law. This provision has caused apprehension among the 7,500 Jews in Spain, according to Max Mazin, president of the Madrid Jewish community, the report said. In addition to the Jews, there are 30,000 Protestants and 2,000 Moslems in Spain.

But, the report said, “we are satisfied that all parties concerned–the men charged with administering the law as well as the spokesmen for non-Catholic groups–are more interested in solutions than in showdowns.” As evidence of the Spanish Government’s desire to make the law more palatable, Rabbi Schneier cited the five months’ extension of the registration deadline, from December 31,1967 to May 31,1968. “It is an undeniable fact that many conservatives fear that a pluralistic society would present a threat to the unity of Spain,” the report said. But “it was the unanimous opinion of the mission that there is a desire for change among the more enlightened Government leaders.”

NEXT STORY