Religion in the Public Schools

Religion in the Public Schools (1958)

One of the many crucial areas involving church-state relations is religion and public education. National Women’s League notes that efforts in support of religious intrusion in public schools have intensified. There is pressure on school personnel to incorporate religious doctrines and practices into public school programs. Religious holidays have become occasions for using classrooms for religious displays and religious programs.

National Women’s League reaffirms its position that religious education of children is the responsibility of parents, synagogues and churches, and not the public school system, no matter what form or guise it may assume. Therefore, we are opposed to the following practices in public schools:

  1. Released time and dismissal time programs.
  2. The teaching of so-called “common core” religion. This would render meaningless the basic tenets of each religion. This includes placing religious plaques or objects on public school property as a part of the public school program.
  3. Bible reading and the distribution of bibles in public schools.
  4. Government aid to church-related schools including outright subsidies, transportation, textbooks and other supplies. We do not oppose the provision at government expense, of lunches, medical and dental services to children at any school.
  5. Public school observance of any religious holidays.

Religion in the Public School (1956)

“Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment or religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” –  Bill of Rights, Article 1.

The National Women’s League of the United Synagogue of America views favorably the deepened commitment of Americans to their respective religious faiths. In utilizing their full resources to advance religious life, we urge all Americans to safeguard the religious rights of all citizens.

We believe that the separation of church and state is in good part responsible for the preservation of our democratic form of government and the effectiveness of our religious groupings.

National Women’s League is concerned by the current vigorous pressure to put religion into public schools. There have been proposals for the teaching of “moral and spiritual” values for the “factual” study of religion and for the teaching of a “common core” of religious belief in the public school system.

Regarding these proposals, National Women’s League states its position as follows:

1. Teaching of “Moral and Spiritual” Values:

Insofar as the teaching of “spiritual values” may be understood to signify religious teaching, this must remain as it has been the responsibility of the home, the church and the synagogue. Insofar as it is understood to signify the teaching of morality, ethics and good citizenship, a deep commitment to such values has been successfully inculcated by our public schools in successive generations of Americans. Public schools must continue to share responsibility for fostering a commitment to these moral values without presenting or teaching any sectarian or theological sources or sanctions for such values.

2. “Objective” or “Factual” Teaching About Religion:

Public schools must and should teach religion with full objectivity. This is important when the role that religion has played in the life of mankind and in development of society is intrinsic to the regular subject being studied. We are opposed to attempts by public elementary and secondary schools to go beyond this and teach about doctrines of religion. Without passing upon the question of whether or not such teaching is inconsistent with the principle of separation of church and state, we believe that factual, objective and impartial teaching about doctrines of religion is an unattainable objective. Any attempt to introduce such teaching into public schools poses grave threats of pressure upon school personnel from sectarian groups. It also compromises the impartiality of teaching and the integrity of the public education system. Our opposition to such teaching rests on these grounds.

3. Teaching of a “Common Core”:

We are opposed to any public school program that seeks to inculcate as doctrine any body of principles, beliefs or concepts that is represented as the “common core of several or all religious faiths. The effort to extract from the religious current among us such as a common denominator or “common core” can lead only to a watering down, a vitiation of all that is spiritually meaningful in every religious faith. We submit moreover, that attempts at religious inculcation in public school, even articles of faith drawn from all religions and endorsed by representatives of all, violate the traditional American principle of separation of church and state.

National Women’s League also reaffirms its position opposing religious practices and joint religious celebrations such as Hanukkah-Christmas and Passover-Easter in public schools. We are opposed to released time or dismissal time programs.

National Women’s League is prepared to join with other religious groups in seeking ways to advance religious understanding and cooperation, and to deepen religious commitments. These efforts must be voluntary and without involvement of government agencies.

Individuals or sisterhoods faced with local problems regarding religion in public schools should seek the guidance of their rabbis, their Jewish Community Council and/or the Social Action Committee of the National Women’s League.

Religion in Public Schools (1952)

“The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state which must be kept high and impregnable.” – U.S. Supreme Court

Whereas, National Women’s League is dedicated to the furtherance of religion, but considers religious education to be the responsibility of the synagogue, the church and the home, and not the public school system. Neither the facilities, funds, personnel or time should be utilized for religious purposes, and

Whereas, the Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States rests upon the premise that both religion and government can best work to achieve their lofty aims if each is left free from the other within its respective sphere, and

Whereas, religious practices, celebrations and released time in public schools negate the principle of separation of church and state,

Now Therefore Be It Resolved that the National Women’s League of the United Synagogue, reaffirms its opposition to religious practices or celebrations in public schools, to released time and to use of public school premises during school hours for religious education or worship.

Note: (Because of its delicate nature, we recommend that sisterhoods faced with local problems regarding religion and public schools seek guidance of their rabbis, their Jewish Community Council and/or the Social Action Committee of the National Women’s League of the United Synagogue.)

Religion in the Public Schools (1950)

Whereas, the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States erects a wall between church and state which must be high and impregnable, resting upon the premise that both religion and government can best work to achieve their lofty aims if each is left free from the other within its respective sphere, and

Whereas, released time in public schools negated this freedom, and

Whereas, the furtherance of religion is the responsibility of the synagogue, the church and the home and not the public school system, neither the time, facilities, funds or personnel of which should be utilized for religious purposes,

Now Therefore Be It Resolved that National Women’s League of the United Synagogue, in convention assembled, is opposed to religious practices or celebrations in public schools and the use of public school premises during school hours for religious education or worship.

(Because of its delicate nature, we recommend that sisterhoods faced with local problems regarding religion and public schools seek guidance of their rabbis, their Jewish Community Council and/or the Social Action Committee of the National Women’s League of the United Synagogue.)