Ajccongress Critical of Nixon’s Private School Aid Pledge

The American Jewish Congress today criticized President Nixon’s pledge of government support for parochial schools and called on him to “uphold the Constitution instead of promising prohibited government aid to sectarian institutions.” In a statement commenting on Nixon’s remarks last night, the AJCongress said Nixon’s support of government aid represented “a turning aside from his constitutional responsibility and from the nation’s commitment to equal opportunity for disadvantaged children.” Will Maslow, executive director of the AJCongress, declared: “The primary and proper purpose of parochial schools is to propagate the faith. The government has no obligation to assist in that aim and is constitutionally prohibited from doing so. Just as we have called on the Jewish community to provide adequate support for Jewish day schools–without tainting their independence or infringing on the rights of others by seeking public funds for religious education–so do we respectfully suggest that the Catholic community provide the support its parochial schools require. Any claim that government failure to support parochial schools represents a denial of constitutional rights to Catholic parents can only result from a misreading of the Constitution.”

Commenting on Nixon’s statement that private and parochial schools were closing “at the rate of one a day.” Maslow declared: “In fact, Catholic schools are actually increasing in numbers, according to the 1070-71 report of the National Catholic Educational Association’s Data Bank.” Maslow said government aid to religious schools would result in a diversion of necessary funds away from public schools. He questioned the “wisdom and propriety of efforts by the Administration to circumvent Supreme Court decisions.” For example, he said, “the President’s directive to hold school busing for integration down to a bare minimum seriously undercuts the Supreme Court’s ruling on desegregation.” On the call by Terence Cardinal Cooke for government funds which precipitated the President’s affirmative response, Maslow said he “deeply regrets” the Cardinal’s statement and wished he had urged “private Catholic support of private Catholic schools rather than a government subsidy. Only in this way can religion be free of government interference and government be free of religious influence.”

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