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Convention of Reform Rabbis Backs Separation of Church and State

June 21, 1962
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The Reform rabbis of the United States and Canada strengthened today their platform upholding the separation of church and state with adoption of a policy statement opposing the use of public school property by religious groups during school hours, the placing of religious symbols on public school buildings and grounds, and the practice in many public schools of granting “released time” for religious instruction.

This was the main action at the morning session today of the 73rd annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, More than 500 of the CCAR’s 800 members are attending the convention which will continue through Saturday.

Rabbis Morris N, Kertzer of Larchmont, N. Y., moved the policy statement’s adoption as chairman of the CCAR Committee on Church and State. The statement included a review of important cases pending in the nation’s highest federal and state courts. Rabbi Kertzer termed the past year “a prelude to historic legal decisions” which he told the rabbis would probably be handed down later this year. Most of the cases mentioned by Rabbi Kertzer involved Bible reading and prayer in the public schools.

The policy statement included a section which goes much beyond the stand of any other American Jewish organization on a program which has come into prominence in recent months and is known as “shared time,” Rabbi Kertzer said. The statement cautions against this program. The shared time proposal involves the joint use by parochial and public schools of tax-supported educational facilities.

Rabbi Kertzer pointed out that under the shared time proposal, denominational schools would be relieved of building physical education and manual training facilities since these would be used in common with the public schools for the teaching of “so-called secular subjects.” The policy statement called on all Reform rabbis to “urge their school communities to undertake further studies before launching shared time programs.”

The convention heard also from Rabbi Sidney L. Regner of New York, CCAR executive vice-president, who reported that the CCAR membership stood at just under 850. The session also heard presentations today by Rabbi Leon Fram of Detroit and Rabbi Levi A. Olan of Dallas, who emphasized in respective papers that Judaism was both a “missionary” and “liberal” faith.

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