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March 23, 1984 - Image 10

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-03-23

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

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Friday, Marth 21:1984

- THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

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Prayer issue loses in Senate

Washington (JTA) — The agencies of the Leadership
bill strongly supported by Conference of National
President Reagan for a Con- Jewish Women's Organiza-
stitutional amendment to tions.
permit voluntary local
The letter, which had
prayers in public schools, been circulated to members
was defeated in the Senate of the Senate by the AJCon-
Tuesday when it fell 11 gress and People for the
votes short of the required American Way, stated that
two-thirds majority. The a Constitutional amend-
vote, in favor of the meas- ment "would permit gov-
ure, was 56-44.
ernment officials to become
Two of the Senate's eight directly and actively in-
Jewish members voted for volved in sponsoring reli-
the bill — Chic Hecht (R- gious activities in public
Nev.) and Edward Zorinsky schools and other public
(D-Neb.). The six voting buildings, even to the point
against it were Sens. Rudy of favoring one faith over
Boschwitz (R-Minn.); Frank others: Such an amendment
Lautenberg (D-N.Y.); Carl would strike at the heart of
Levin (D-Mich.); Howard the American tradition of
Metzenbaum (D-Ohio); religious liberty and sep-
William Rudman (R-N.H.); aration of church and
and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). state."
Michigan's other Senator,
The statement by the
Donald Riegle, also opposed Jewish women's leadership
the bill. Most national conference noted that
Jewish organizations op- "nothing presently in the
posed the bill.
Constitution prevents a
The opposition of the child from praying in
American Jewish commu- school, but a school prayer
nity to any pro-school amendment would make it
prayer amendment to the an organized activity which
Constitution was re- would seriously under-
emphasized in a letter mine" the church-state sep-
signed by more than 250 aration principle in the
experts in Constitutional First Amendment.
law and in a statement is-
The Aglidath Israel of
sued by the constituent America stated that "in
principle" the Orthodox
agency "favors the return of
American society to reli-
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7 Days or Longer from
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prayer in public schools by
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`majority religion.' "
The Rabbinical Assembly
of America, the United
Synagogue of America and
the Women's League for
Conservative Judaism is-
sued a joint statement say-
ing that the place for
prayers is in the home and
in the houses of worship.
In Detroit, David Leben-
born, president of the
Jewish Community Coun-
cil, said the communal
agency is "traditionally and
continues to be opposed to
prayer in the schools — si-
lent and vocal. The position
of the council is: prayer be-
longs at home or in the
synagogue or church.
Lebenbom said the coun-
cil contacted both Michigan
Senators to "give them our
views. They are sympathe-
tic to our views." Lebenbom
added: "If we didn't stop
them in the Senate, we'd
stop them in the House.
We'd redouble our efforts."
Rabbi David A. Nelson,
spiritual leader of Cong.
Beth Shalom, a Conserva-
tive congregation, re-
sponded to the bill's defeat
by saying: -
"I was impressed by the
courage of those Senators
who voted against the
Amendment. They demon-
strated that they under-
stood what America was in-
tended to be — a country
founded on democratic
ideals. Forcing prayer in
schools would mark, in my
view, the death of religious
freedom and voluntarism on
our country.
"Prayer is a profound
spiritual experience which
should occur at home; in the
synagogue and in church.
Forcing it down the throats
of unwitting children is not
what the Founding Fathers
intended for America."
Rabbi James I. Gordon of
the Orthodox Young Israel
of Oak Woods stated: "I
definitely feel that prayer
does not belong in the
schools. I am very pleased
that the measure was de-
feated, particularly since it
involved a question of Con-
stitutionality."
Rabbi Dannel Schwartz of
Temple Beth-El, a Reform
congregation 'said: "I think
that Sen. Lowell Weicker
(R-Conn.) deserves special
recognition for his poised
leadership. He was never
intimidated by the fun-
damentalist forces and he
made it quite clear that
religion and prayer are too
personal for politics."
In a joint statement is-
sued in May 1982 and reis-
sued in February 1983, four
national religious and
communal organizations
stated their positions on
prayer in the schools. The
four, the Baptist Joint
Committee on Public Af-
fairs, National Council of
Churches of Christ in the
USA, the Synagogue Coun-
cil of America and the
NJCRAC stated in part:
"Broad concepts of free-
dom of religion and separa-
tion of church and state
prohibit government agen-
cies such as public schools
from fostering religious
practices or beliefs."

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