Nation's Largest Jewish Organization Applauds Rejection of Vouchers by Federal Appeals Court
Contact: Evan Moffic (202) 387-2800
WASHINGTON, December 11, 2000 — In response to today's decision by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to strike down the Cleveland Voucher Program, Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
Today's ruling is a victory for the First Amendment and a victory for public education. By stating that "there is no neutral aid when that aid principally flows to religious institutions," the 6th Circuit today made a clear statement that public funding of private religious education runs afoul of the First Amendment.
The 6th Circuit Court considered the case after voucher proponents appealed an early ruling against the Cleveland schools vouchers program by a U.S. District Court in Ohio. The Cleveland voucher program, which began as an experiment by the state of Ohio in 1996, gives certain families $2500 in tuition vouchers that can be used at private schools. Citing the fact that most of the 56 schools receiving voucher money have a religious affiliation, both the U.S. District and Circuit Courts ruled that such a program violates the Constitution's separation of church and state.
As Jewish Americans, members of a religious minority, we strive to protect our religious liberty through effective prohibitions on the establishment of religion. If the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear an appeal of this case, it would prompt one of the most significant debates about public schools and church-state separation in decades. We will, of course, continue to monitor this and other debates over school vouchers as they proceed.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis.