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Nine Jewish Agencies Seek Supreme Court Ruling Against New York Textbook Law

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Nine national Jewish organizations have filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court urging the court to declare unconstitutional the furnishing of publicly-owned textbooks to sectarian school pupils. The court is expected to argue the case during the fourth week of April. The brief is directed against a 1965 New York law under which local school boards are required to use public funds to buy textbooks and “loan” them to pupils attending non-public junior and senior high schools.

The Jewish groups contended in their brief that the law violates the establishment of religion and free exercise provisions of the First Amendment as they apply to sectarian schools. Organizations filing the brief were: American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Jewish Labor Committee, Jewish War Veterans. National Council of Jewish Women, Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the United Synagogue of America.

A challenge to the New York law by two local boards of education in that stats was supported by the brief. The New York Court of Appeals ruled last year that the statute violated neither the Federal nor State Constitution. Jewish groups were concerned “because they believe that the program provided for in the statute under review is a form of aid to religious institutions, bringing in its train the evils that the constitutional guarantee of separation of church and state was designed to prevent.”

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