The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, will be supporting the appeal of a Christian youth club when its case is heard tomorrow by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Following a New York State law, the Milford school district enacted a policy that allowed social and civic organizations to use its public school facilities after hours for meetings, but barred religious groups from using the same facilities. Thus, Milford refused to allow the Good News Club, a Christian high school group, to meet on premises after school. The Club’s meetings include Bible study, brief prayers and a discussion of moral issues. The Club sued the school district asserting that their free speech rights were being violated because they were being denied the use of facilities after-hours solely on the basis of the religious viewpoint of their speech. The Club’s suit was rejected by lower federal courts.
The Orthodox Union joined a friend of the court brief in support of the Good News Club arguing that Milford’s policy and the New York law mandates unequal and, therefore, unconstitutional discriminatory treatment of religion.
Nathan Diament, political and legal affairs director for the Union, issued the following statement in connection with the Supreme Court hearing:
The Orthodox Jewish community believes strongly in the freedom of religion guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and we believe a fundamental component of that freedom is that religious Americans must be afforded equal treatment by the government. To exclude an after-school club that is religious while admitting every other group, no matter what their views might be, is pernicious.
This is not the first time New York’s public school authorities have shut their doors to religion; they have refused to rent rooms to neighborhood congregations that needed a place to pray on the weekends.
This policy must end and we are confident that the Supreme Court will end it.