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New Ceta Rules Challenged

Six national Jewish groups have filed objections to the new Department of Labor rules regulating the participation of religious institutions in government funded on-the-job training programs under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA).

The organizations include the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA), National Council of Young Israel, Rabbinical Council of America, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Torah Umesorah, and the United Satmar Community. They protested the regulations which apply to religiously affiliated institutions and incorporate recent standards set by the Supreme Court prohibiting aid to parochial schools.”

The new CETA regulations allow some participation by religious groups, but only if services and training are offered to the public and if public participation is “actively solicited.” In a letter to Robert Anderson, Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training of the Department of Labor, Dennis Rapps, the executive director of COLPA, opposed this measure stating that the program is already open to the general public. Increased recruitment efforts may divert the institutions’ allocation of resources away from programs and training, the letter continued.

Rapps also noted that the organizations were concerned that their programs’ effectiveness may be hindered by the regulations. The new CETA rules limit religiously affiliated institutions as the training sites for relatively few positions in order not to “unconstitutionally benefit” such religious groups. The Jewish groups directly challenged the applicability of such limitations standardized by the Supreme Court in its efforts to clarify the old church-state controversy.

Rapps statement to the Department of Labor emphasized the secular nature of the organizations’ training programs: “The function (of a job) is precisely the same in both sectors. Thus, we believe that religiously affiliated schools should not be limited in employment of participants to support services for their government programs and to those tasks specifically approved by the courts as directly fundable through public old to education statutes.

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