WASHINGTON (Mar. 20)
In a major test case on parochiaid, the Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty (PEARL) urged the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a lower court decision that New York State’s 1970 Mandated Services Act–allocating $28 million per year to sectarian schools for examination and record-keeping purposes–was unconstitutional. The high court’s ruling is expected to decide whether states may make direct payments of public funds to church schools for any purpose. In June 1971, the Supreme Court ruled states may not do so for teachers’ salaries.
Leo Pfeffer of New York, arguing the taxpayers’ suit for PEARL, said there was no way to make sure that New York State funds allocated under the law were used for non-religious purposes. Any effort to ascertain whether the funds were or were not promoting religion would involve the state in unconstitutional surveillance of the parochial schools, he declared.
The suit–Levitt v, PEARL (formerly known as PEARL v. Rockefeller)–is on appeal by New York State to the Supreme Court from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Last April the lower court struck down the Mandated Services Act as a violation of the First Amendment and enjoined payments under it.