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March 09, 1984 - Image 10

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-03-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

10 Friday, March 9, 1984

Battle Lines Are Drawn Over School Prayer and Court Ruling

(Continued from Page 1) to bring up the amendment
Some supporters of the until after the Senate, with
amendment in the Senate a vote expected to be close.
are suggesting that prayer Monday night, a group of
should be silent rather than conservative Republicans
vocal. But Weicker and held an all-night debate on
other opponents of the the amendment. At the
amendment have argued same time, a group of
that children can pray now evangelicals held a prayer
in school individually. They meeting on the steps of the
are opposed to an organized Capitol. National Jewish
organizations and "main
prayer period.
The House is not expected line" Protestant organiza-

tions are opposed to the
amendment.
In his speech, Reagan
said that the courts have not
only banned prayer in the
public schools but in New
York a court recently
banned students in Albany
from using a classroom for a
voluntary prayer meeting.
"Hasn't , something
gone haywire when this
great Constitution of

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ours is invoked to allow
Nazis and Ku Klux
Klansmen to march on
public property and urge
the extermination of
Jews and the subjagation
of blacks, but it sup-
posedly prevents our
children from Bible study
or the saying of a simple
prayer in the schools?"
the President asked.
Declaring that "America
has begun a spiritual awak-
ening," Reagan urged
"tolerance and openness" to
those who do not agree with
these views. He urged the
evangelicals to "use your
pulpits to denounce racism,
anti-Semitism and all
ethnic and religious in-
tolerance as evils."
Then denounceing what
he called the "Communist
Sandinista regime" in
Nicaragua, Reagan claimed
that "threats and harass-
ment have forced' virtually
all Nicaragua's Jews to flee
their country."
* * *
Agencies Hit
Court Ruling
Initial Jewish civil and
religoius rights agency
reactions to the sudden shift
by the Supreme Court in
ruling that a city may pre-
sent a nativity scene as part
of an official Christmas dis-
play without violating the
Constitution contained
some of the sharpest criti-
cisms ever voiced by such
agencies against the high-
est court of the land.
Experts said the ruling on
the permissible boundary
between government and
organized religion in the
United States significantly
shifted that boundary in
favor of religion, The deci-
sion marked the first time
that Justices — though ad-
mittedly by the narrowest of
margins — have permitted
a government sponsored
display that is explicitly
and exclusively Christitn.
The decision, Lynch v.
Donnelly, the experts said,
is certain to have a substan-

tial effect in encouraging of-
ficial Yule displays in pub-
lic places. Uncertainty and
increasing litigation has
developed in recent years
over the constitutionality of
'officially-sponsored nativ-
ity scenes, with Jewish
organizations, whatever
their religious orientation,
registered in opposition.
The three-year-old suit
over Pawtucket's creche
prompted most Rhode Is-
land communities to can-
cel their Christmas dis-
plays.
The dissenting opinion
left it uncertain whether
the Supreme Court would
have sustained the con-
stitutionality only of a
creche, or of another reli-
gious symbol, such as a
cross, which Jewish organ-
izations have indicated they
would consider euqally un-
constitutional.
A suit involving a display
of only nativity figures, in a
public park in Scarsdale,
N.Y. is now before the Fed-
eral Court of Appeals for the
Second Circuit in Manhat-
tan.
(The American Civil
Liberties Union in Michi-
gan had challenged holiday
displays in Birmingham
and Oak Park.)
Chief Justice Warren
Burger, writing for the
majority, declared that
"admittedly" the nativity
scene in Pawtucket "is a
reminder of the origins of
Christmas." But, he
added, there was no sig-
nificant difference be-
tween such a display and
a showing of such "mas-
terpieces" as the depic-
tion of the birth of Christ,
the Crucifixion, and
other "explicit Christian
themes and messages" in
"publicly-supported art
galleries."
The 5-4 decision over-
turned rulings by a federal
district court and a federal
appeals court, which had
ruled that the Pawtucket
creche amounted to an offi-
cial doctrine and was ac-

cordingly banned by the
First Amendment clause
prohibiting an official es-
tablishment of religion.
Associate Justice
William Brennan declared,
in the dissent, that the
maintenance and display at
public expense of a symbol
as "distinctively sectarian
as a creche" should be
viewed in the light of the
proposition that a creche "is
best understood as a mysti-
cal recreation of an event
that lies at the heart of the
Christian faith" and "sim-
ply cannot be viewed as
playing the same role that
an ordinary museum dis-
play does."
Brennan denounced the
action by Pawtucket as "a
coercive, though perhaps
small, step toward estab-
lishing the Abctarian pref-
erences of the majority at
the expense of the minor-
ity."
Berger declared the
lower courts were wrong
in "focussing almost ex-
clusively on the creche"
rather than the city's
entire, "largely secular"
Christmas display,
which, he asserted,
engenders a friendly
community spirit of
goodwill in keeping with
the season."
That "friendly commu-
nity spirit of goodwill" was
notably absent in the vigor-
ous initial comments from
the Anti-Defamation
League of Bnai Brith; the
Union of Ainerican Reform
Congregations (UAHC) and
the American Jewish
Committee.
(Continued on Page 11)

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Chief Rabbis Suggest Prayer
Will End Calamities in Israel

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Is-
rael's two chief rabbis have
proposed a solution for the
nation's problems. In adver-
tisements published in the
daily press, they 'appealed
for special prayers to end
drought, road accidents and
disease.
Borrowing from the Vim
Kippur liturgy -- "Repen-
tance, Prayer and Charity
can avert the evil decree" —
the Chief Rabbis declared:

"In the wake of events re-
cently witnessed in our
country, we now suffer
drought, the scourge of road
accidents, an increase in
serious disease unseen in
generations, senseless
hatred, dissension and out-
rageous desecration of the
Sabbath."
They urged that the spe-
cial prayers be recited be-
fore the start of the new He,

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