Aj Congress Opposing State Aid to Parochial Schools in New Jersey and Rhode Island

The thrust of Gov. William T. Cahill’s announcement Monday that he would seek to channel state funds to private schools for textbooks and lunches was assailed today by Rabbi Israel S. Dresner, president of the New Jersey branch of the American Jewish Congress. Rabbi Dresner said the Governor’s proposal would “set a precedent for large scale direct financing of religious and other private schools by the state,” would “stimulate interreligious competition for the favors of the state and involve public officials improperly in the affairs of religious bodies,” and would “intensify educational segregation.” (A spokesman for the AJ Congress in New York told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that organization opposed the textbook, but not the school-lunch, aspect of the Cahill proposal. Rabbi Dresner said he also “deplores” the “pressure” by sectarian groups for private-school aid as a “disservice to religious freedom” and to the public school system. Catholics, who would be the biggest beneficiaries of the suggested assistance, constitute just over half of New Jersey’s population and one-fifth of its studentry, and the aid issue is a hot one in the Garden State. Currently, aid to the sectarian sector is limited to busing funds.

In Providence, Rhode Island, a key test case opened yesterday in the U.S. District Court in which six Rhode Island taxpayers challenged the constitutionality of a state law passed last year that permits the state to pay part of the salaries of parochial school teachers. The suit is sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union and the AJ Congress. Leo Pfeffer of New York, special counsel of the Congress, represents the plaintiffs. The trial marks the second time in two months that a question involving the constitutional separation of church and state has been argued. The earlier case, which challenges the grant of Federal funds to sectarian colleges in Connecticut under the Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963, is awaiting decision in the U.S. District Court in Hartford. Both cases are expected ultimately to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Pfeffer will seek a judgment declaring the Act to be unconstitutional and enjoining the defendants “from making any payments purportedly authorized under it.”

Editor’s Note: Because of the strike of postal employes in the New York area, this copy of the JTA Daily News Bulletin may reach you with some delay.

NEXT STORY