Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization — through its Institute for Public Affairs, joined with other national Orthodox Jewish organizations in filing a “friend of the court” brief with the United States Supreme Court urging the court to find the City of Cleveland’s school voucher program constitutional.
The Supreme Court will finally rule on this long-running constitutional and political question this term, and briefs in support of the voucher program were due today. The brief was sponsored by the Jewish Commission on Law & Public Affairs [“COLPA”]; its principal author was Washington attorney and Union board member Nathan Lewin; Union Institute director Nathan Diament was a contributor to the brief.
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, issued the following statement in connection with today’s filing:
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 today urges the Supreme Court to champion them as well this term.