Ajcongress Lawyer to Contest Legality of Using Public Funds for Sectarian College

A major test case to decide whether or not a sectarian college can constitutionally receive public funds to build a dormitory or a library will be argued tomorrow in the State Supreme Court. Leo Pfeffer, special counsel of the American Jewish Congress will represent four AJCongress members who are New Jersey taxpayers in a suit challenging the New Jersey Educational Facilities Authority Act of 1966. Two Catholic colleges–St. Peter’s College in Jersey City and Caldwell College for Women in Caldwell – and Bloomfield College and Seminary in Bloomfield, a Protestant institution, were agreed upon by attorneys for all sides in the case as representative of the sectarian colleges who would be benefitted by the Act. In his argument before the court tomorrow. Mr. Pfeffer will assert that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision makes a clear distinction between tax exemption, which is constitutional, and a direct subsidy, which is not. According to Mr. Pfeffer, the Supreme Court decision declared, “No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion.” Mr. Pfeffer will contend further that a college’s eligibility for public support should depend not on whether a given facility is to be used for secular or sectarian purposes, as the New Jersey Act specifies, but on how religious the college is. His law brief declares: “At some point, the badges of religion become so prominent in the life of an educational institution that it must be adjudged to be sectarian.” For this reason, then, “such an institution may not receive government funds even if they are for the construction of buildings for secular use only.”

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