WASHINGTON (May. 27)
The practice of placing a creche on suburban Montgomery County park land each Christmas was under challenge today by the Washington chapter of the American Jewish Congress as possibly involving a violation of the Constitutional church-state separation principle. A Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission replied that “we should not be fighting over trifles while allowing the critical problems of our civilization and society to go unanswered.”
The chapter, in a letter to the Commission, asked for an explanation of the practice. The park is located in Silver Springs, M.D. A commission spokesman said the creche had been placed annually in the park for at least a dozen years and that another is erected each year at the Commission’s central office in Prince George’s County. In a reply to the letter from Joel H. Levy, co-chairman of the AJ Committee chapter’s law and social action committee, Harry Lerch, the Commission’s general counsel, argued that social problems were so massive that men of goodwill should not “struggle with each other over the manner in which we exchange good wishes with each other.” He conceded it was illegal for Commission employes to be paid to set up the creche but added he thought it was done on the employes’ own time.