Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, through its Institute for Public Affairs, strongly criticized the American Civil Liberties Union for filing suit in federal court to block a suburban Cincinnati, Ohio public school district from giving its students a day off on the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur.
The Sycamore Community School District adopted as pilot program last year the practice of giving students days off on the Jewish high holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. With a high percentage of Jewish students, these were days of high absences in the district’s schools which were found to be disruptive to the curriculum. The ACLU has filed suit in federal district court asserting that this policy violates the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause.
Institute for Public Affairs director Nathan Diament stated that “the ACLU’s lawsuit in this case is clearly misguided. Where the ACLU choose to see the improper establishment of religion one could just as soon see the appropriate accommodation of students’ religious needs or a school district’s need to avoid disruptions in its teaching enterprise.
As far back as 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand the upholding of a local school district’s policy on the observance of religious holidays which included a provision that the ‘school calendar should be prepared so as to minimize conflicts with religious holidays.’ We hope the courts will not allow the constitutional provisions designed to promote religious liberty be twisted to force students into a terrible conflict between their faith and their studies.”