Colpa Head Deplores Veto of Devout Students Bill

The veto by Governor Rockefeller yesterday of a bill which would have required private colleges and universities to make “reasonable accommodations” to Sabbath-observing students for registration, make-up classes and make-up examinations was deplored today by Howard Rhine, president of the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA).

Rhine said Sabbath observers do not attend school on their Sabbaths and on other Holy Days, with the result that many have been put at a “great disadvantage” in pursuing their education. He said the bill, known as the Devout Students Law, was drafted by COLPA “in close cooperation” with the New York State Division of Rights, a branch of the executive department of the State government. He said Gov. Rockefeller had twice previously vetoed Devout Students legislation relating to private institutions of higher learning. Current law protects devout students at public colleges and universities.

The Governor, in his veto message, said the 1972 bill was a “distinct improvement” over those he had previously vetoed but he said there was a lack of demonstrated need for the measure, possibly onerous financial burdens being placed on the schools and the “dangers” of a serious abuse of its provisions.

Rhine said COLPA was prepared “to litigate this issue on a case by case basis if need be, to protect those students who would be compelled to choose between their religion and educational opportunity.”

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