Separation of Church and State

Separation of Church and State** (2012)

Background

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

While we are deeply committed to the fostering of religion in the home and by the synagogue, we are equally committed to the American belief that religion is private and personal and should not be controlled, interfered with or supported by government or state agencies. We believe that the principle of separation of Church and State has contributed greatly to the preservation of our democratic form of government and has strengthened religious groups in our country.

Tax law in the United States forbids churches and other 501(c)(3) nonprofits to intervene in elections. There have been multiple cases recently of clergy who have exhorted their congregants to vote in a particular way. The Alliance Defense Fund actively campaigns for churches to violate tax law and endorse candidates in the November election.

The responsibility of the government is to treat all citizens equally. Local governments have introduced prayers at the beginning of their meetings. A Federal district court struck down the practice of opening meetings of the Sussex County Council in Delaware with the Lord’s Prayer. An appeals court declared the use of mostly Christian invocations by the Greece, NY Town Board unconstitutional. Courts, however, have allowed non-sectarian invocations. These also pose problems since it is hard to define “non-sectarian.” How does one invoke a non-sectarian prayer which would be acceptable to non-believers or people who define God in non-traditional ways?

Several states, including Missouri, Florida, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Alaska, Arizona, Wyoming and Mississippi, have had or will have attempts made to water down church-state protections. Schools in a Connecticut school district had been holding their graduation ceremonies in a church. A suit was brought indicating that holding graduation ceremonies in a church violated First Amendment guarantees of religious liberty. A preliminary injunction barred the use of the church.

School voucher programs that tax all Americans to support religious education violate the individual right of conscience. Abuses have been hallmarks of voucher programs. A Louisiana voucher plan was uses tax dollars to support religious education. There are also public charter schools that are religious in nature.

Resolution

WHEREAS, Women’s League for Conservative Judaism remains firm in its support of the separation of Church and State,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Women’s League for Conservative Judaism calls on its Sisterhoods to:

  • Make their members aware of separation of Church and State issues;
  • Encourage its members to be active locally to stand up for separation of Church and State; and
  • Encourage its members to report to the IRS infractions of the tax law by churches or other 501(c)(3) organizations of which they become aware.

** The Canadian view on Church and State is largely similar to the view in the U.S. However, the Canadian constitution acknowledges that Canada is founded “under the supremacy of God.” Canadian religious schools in certain provinces receive government funding.

Cooperation with other groups in Church-State Matters (1960)

National Women’s League recognizes the need for greater under-standing and interpretation of the principle of church/state separation. We also recognize the explosive manor of the issues in the area of church-state relations and religious liberty with varying local circumstances, and urge our affiliated Sisterhoods to explore fully these problems by a program of study. Action by individuals should be avoided.

We urge Sisterhood Social Action Committees to work on such matters with other Jewish groups in the community through the Jewish Community Council and to consult the Social Action Committee of National Women’s League for literature and guidance.

Cooperation with other groups in Church-State Matters (1962)

National Women’s League recognizes the need for greater understanding and interpretation of the principle of Church-State separation because of the explosive nature of the issues in the foregoing area of our concerns. Affiliated Sisterhoods should fully explore these problems in a program of study and cooperate on such matters with other Jewish groups in the community. Action by individuals should be avoided.