NEW YORK (Jan. 25)
The battle over state aid to parochial schools mounted this week as the New York State Senate prepared to act on a bill to repeal Art. XI, Sect, 3, of the State Constitution–the so-called Blaine Amendment–which bars indirect aid to religious schools under the principle of separation of church and state. The 1970 Legislature passed a resolution to repeal the Blaine Amendment, Repeal requires a second passage and approval by State referendum next fall. The Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty (PEARL), a coalition of 29 civic, religious and educational organizations, has urged defeat of the repeal measure in letters to every member of the State Legislature.
Jewish organizations such as the American Jewish Congress, oppose state aid to parochial schools. The chief proponents of such measures in the Jewish camp are orthodox Jews who have a large network of religious Hebrew day schools in New York and other states. The Orthodox viewpoint was stated today by Rabbi Moshe Sherer, executive vice president of the Agudath Israel of America, in a broadcast over radio station WQXR. Rabbi Sherer replied to Dr. Leo Pfeffer, of the AJCongress, who broadcast the opposing view last week.
Rabbi Sherer said he sought to dispel the “myth” that “religious groups are asking the government to finance religious education with the American tax dollar.” He said, “This is totally untrue. We are not seeking any financial assistance from the government for religious studies. All that we ask the government to do is help defray the expenses of our secular studies program.” Rabbi Sherer noted that pupils at Hebrew day schools “study geography and history and mathematics from government-approved textbooks.” He said, “We feel that the government should use our tax dollars to help pay for this secular education. Otherwise, our tax dollars are paying for the education of the next man’s children, while we bear the load of double taxation.”
The PEARL letter to the State legislators, signed by William F. Haddad, the organization’s executive co-chairman, was accompanied by a 19 page analysis of the issues in the repeal fight. It noted that when the proposed new State Constitution was rejected by New York voters in 1967, “it was generally recognized at the time that the chief issue on which the vote turned was the attempted repeal of Art. XI, Sect. 3. It is thus apparent,” the statement continued, “that millions of New Yorkers believe that repeal would injure both religious freedom and public education.” Haddad also noted that the 1970 Mandated Services Act, passed by the State Legislature–which allocated $28 million to parochial schools last year in payment for attendance and other record-keeping required by the state–was being challenged by PEARL and 13 individual plaintiffs in Federal Court as a violation of the State and Federal Constitutions.