In conjunction with a hearing set for tomorrow, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, through its Institute for Public Affairs, urged the United States Supreme Court to permit parochial schools to receive federal education subsidies for computers technology hardware and software. The Union, along with other Orthodox Jewish groups, filed a friend of the court brief stating its position last August.
The California based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the New Orleans based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit have issued conflicting rulings over whether federal provision of these funds violates the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause. The brief joined in by the Orthodox Union contends that the Court’s recent jurisprudence in the church-state arena has shifted and that there is no justification under current precedents to continue to exclude parochial schools from religion-neutral government subsidies and that such exclusion violated the principle that the government should be neutral toward religion.
Nathan Diament, director of the Institute for Public Affairs, issued the following statement in connection with the Court’s argument:
The Court’s rulings on government aid to parochial schools has been in disarray for many years; textbooks can be loaned but not maps, prompting one to ask – what about atlases? The time for the Court to clearly rule on this issue is long overdue and in 1999, computer training is an essential component of the secular education that our schools provide. To prohibit parochial schools from receiving otherwise available federal support for obtaining computers and software is nothing short of discrimination against religion. The Constitution calls upon the state to be neutral toward religion, not hostile towards it. We are confident that the Court will issue a ruling consistent with our views next term.