NEW YORK (Jul. 2)
The American Jewish Congress expressed gratification today over the US Supreme Court’s ruling that compulsory attendance at chapel by cadets at US service academies was unconstitutional. The Court’s decision upheld a brief filed as friend-of-the-court by AJCongress special counsel Leo Pfeffer on behalf of 13 Jewish organizations, secular and religious. The organizations included affiliates of the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform branches of American Judaism.
They were joined in similar briefs filed by 42 Protestant groups. Pfeffer’s brief argued that compulsory chapel attendance was “archaic” and “inconsistent with American traditions of religious freedom.”
It cited the “long and ignoble history” of government surveillance of religious worship, especially as it affected Jewish communities from the Roman domination in Judaea through Czarist Russia. “Wherever there has been an established church there is a history of governmental surveillance of church services to uncover heresy in worship and in totalitarian states to uncover sedition in sermons,” Pfeffer wrote. “Revulsion to governmental and military intrusion upon sacred premises is reflected in the Biblical prohibition to which the only exception occurs when the intrusion is necessary to apprehend a deliberate murderer,” he pointed out.