WASHINGTON, August 24, 1999 - In response to this morning's announcement that the Harrison County (Mississippi) School Board has reversed its decision to ban students from displaying the Star of David, Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center, noted that "From this experience in Mississippi we have again learned the importance of reasonable discussion and education when conflicts arise." "This decision is the right one, the just one, and the appropriate one, as well as a resounding affirmation of our First Freedom, religious liberty," he said.
The full text of Pelavin's statement follows:
We heartily welcome the news that the Harrison County School Board has decided not to proscribe students wearing the Star of David as a form of religious expression. This decision is the right one, the just one, and the appropriate one, as well as a resounding affirmation of our First Freedom, religious liberty. The First Amendment's guarantee of religious liberty applies to every corner of this nation, and all Americans are free to worship and to express their religious beliefs free from undue interference.
From this experience in Mississippi we have again learned the importance of reasonable discussion and education when conflicts arise. The Board's actions were not born of anti-Semitism or anti-religious sentiment but of an honest intent to protect students from a perceived gang problem. We are pleased that the Board realized that its policy was an unacceptable infringement upon religious liberty, and we are confident that the Board will find better ways to prevent school violence and gang-related incidents. We renew our pledge to offer any assistance we can to the Harrison County School Board in its work to make our children's schools safer havens of learning.
Note: The Religious Action Center previously sent a letter to the Harrison County School Board urging them to reconsider their policy in light of its unconstitutional infringement on student rights.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.