The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America — the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization — is urging the United States Supreme Court to find the City of Cleveland’s school voucher program constitutional. The Court will hear oral arguments in this historic case tomorrow; the Union, which has advocated in support of parental choice in education programs for decades, joined other supporters of the Cleveland program in filing a friend-of-the-court brief several months ago.
In the brief, the Union and other Orthodox Jewish organizations contend that the high court’s precedents support finding the voucher program constitutional. As long ago as 1925, the Court recognized that the right of parents to guide the education of their children was a fundamental constitutional right. More recently, over the last two decades the Court has issued rulings in support of extending tuition tax-credits to parochial school families, allowing state supplied special-education teachers to teach in parochial schools and extending supplementary educational materials such as books and computers to all elementary schools, including parochial schools. The guiding principles of these rulings has been that the government is acting neutrally toward religion and non-religion alike, and that it is the private choices of parents that determine whether public resources follow their children to non-public schools. The brief contends that under these precedents, the Court must rule that the Constitution’s Establishment Clause does not invalidate the Cleveland program.
Nathan Diament, the Union’s director of public policy, issued the following statement in anticipation of tomorrow’s Court session:
The time has come for the nation’s highest court to announce once and for all that the Establishment Clause may not be used as a tool of hostility toward religious families and institutions, but that it guards America’s religious liberty by ensuring the state’s equal treatment and neutrality toward religion. The Cleveland school voucher plan is a religion-neutral means of giving parents more choices – better choices – for their children’s education and future. The Orthodox Jewish community fully supports this plan and these principles and urges the Supreme Court to champion them as well.