(As published in the Wall Street Journal – Letters)
Regarding “Religious Liberty Divides American Jews” (Houses of Worship, July 8): Nathan Lewin rightly reports that we in the Orthodox Jewish community welcome the recent demise, in Kennedy v. Bremerton, of the Lemon test—a 1971 Supreme Court precedent that essentially mandated government hostility to religion. This ruling should be applauded by all who value, as Justice Neil Gorsuch put it, “a free and diverse Republic” in which there is “respect for religious expressions.”
The Lemon test’s approach would have prohibited Jewish parochial schools at risk of anti-Semitic attacks from receiving government grants to bolster their security, denied disaster aid to rebuild houses of worship after a hurricane and excluded religious entities from Covid-relief loans. Such outcomes would run counter to the policy goals of those programs and undermine the equitable treatment of religious communities in favor of an aggressive secularist regime.
Fortunately, this extreme view of “strict separationism” is held by a fringe minority. The inclusion of synagogues, churches and parochial schools in the federal-aid programs above has been broadly supported by both parties in Congress. At the state level, there has been bipartisan support for new government funding for private schools, both religious and secular, for STEM teachers (New York), scholarship funds (Pennsylvania) and school nurses (New Jersey).
In its pair of religious-liberty rulings, the Supreme Court has ensured that religious Americans are treated equally in government programs. That is as it should be.
Nathan J. Diament
Executive Director for Public Policy – Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America