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Orthodox Groups Concerned with Draft Registration Decision

A coalition of Orthodox Jewish groups expressed concern today over a federal court decision declaring the draft registration law unconstitutional because it was limited to men. Although a temporary stay of the decision was issued by Supreme Court Associate Justice William Brencon, the full court will consider the question in its upcoming term, which begins in October. Meanwhile, registration for men officially began today.

According to Rabbi Herman Neuberger, coordinator of the Orthodox Jewish Coalition on Registration of Women for the Selective Service System, rulings of halachio authorities state that Jewish religious law prohibits Jewish girls from participating in the Selective Service System, whether in military or alternative service.

Should the lower court ruling be upheld by the Supreme Court and if registration is then to be re-activated, Congress will have to pass a new registration law providing for the registration of women as well as men, he noted. Since the current draft law provides for random selection for induction from the pool of registrants not exempted or deferred, the problems are obvious and ominous, Neuberger said.

The Coalition consists of Agudath Israel of America, Central Congress of Orthodox Rabbis, National Council of Young Israel, National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA) National Society for Hebrew Day Schools (Torah Umesorah), Rabbinical Alliance of America, Rabbinical Council of America, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, United Lubavitch Organization and United Satmar Community.

IN ACCORD WITH CONGRESSIONAL REPORT

Neuberger stressed that while the position of the Coalition is based on religion, it is in accord with the conclusions of a report of the Subcommittee on Manpower and Personnel of the U.S. House of Representatives. That report, prepared in connection with the new registration law, concluded that the judgement of military leaders and Congress was that a men-only system best serves national security.

Pointing to studies that show that women volunteer in sufficient numbers to fill the positions open to them, the report stated it was thus not necessary to draft women. The report said that since a draft would be based on a random selection from the pool of registrants, in time of national emergency when men would be needed quickly for combat, an equal number of men and women would have to be called up. Moreover, sexually integrated units would create great difficulty for military planners with respect to combat deployment, according to the report.

The report also referred to the impact registering and drafting women would have on the family unit and maintained that a decision on this question is properly within the purview of Congress.

Dennis Rapps, executive director of COLPA, who is serving as an attorney for the Coalition, said that the Coalition would continue to work politically to avoid the registration of women. He said that the Coalition would also file a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court when it considers the issue in the fall.

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