NEW YORK (Jan. 16)
A brief on behalf of Orthodox lay and rabbinical organizations has been filed in the U.S. Supreme Court by the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA) in support of federal payments for remedial reading teachers in religiously-sponsored schools. A number of Jewish community relations agencies have filed a brief in opposition to such payments.
The case involves the issue of whether federal funds under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act may be used to pay such teachers for special remedial classes in the private schools. The state of Missouri refused to assign remedial reading teachers to such schools on grounds this would violate the First Amendment to the federal constitution. A lawsuit opposing the state’s position was brought by parents of parochial school students in Missouri.
Howard Rhine, COLPA president, said the COLPA brief was joined in by the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, the Agudath Israel of America, the Rabbinical Alliance of America, the National Council of Young Israel, Poelai Agudath Israel of America, Rabbinical Council of America, Religious Zionists of America, and Torah Umesorah, the National Society for Hebrew Day Schools. The brief was written by Nathan Lewin, Washington attorney and COLPA vice-president.
Rhine criticized the Jewish groups which had jointly filed the brief in support of the state of Missouri. He said that it was “deplorable that Jewish groups would effectively deprive yeshiva and day school students of even remedial reading instructions simply because it would occur in a parochial school setting.” He called this “stretching the principle of separation of church and state to an absurd and self-defeating length.”
Lewin, in the brief, cited recent court decisions barring public funds for various programs in private schools and said the effect of such decisions “has been to disable private sectarian education in this country by placing it–virtually alone of all social services offered in our society–beyond the helping hand of the otherwise omnipresent public treasury.” He expressed the fear that such judicial rulings “may strangle religious education” in the U.S.