Statement on Church-State Relations (2/10)

Statement on Church-State Relations (2/10)

A. Religious Displays in Public Schools

AJC continues to believe that religious icons and symbols, including the Ten Commandments, are not appropriate for display in our public schools where children of all faiths and of no faith convene daily.

B. Creationism

Creationism or “creation science” -- the belief that the origin of the world and the development of life were due to divine intervention -- is not a scientific theory, but rather a matter of religious faith. As such, AJC has opposed its being taught in public school science classes and filed an amicus brief in the case of Edwards v. Aguillard in which the Supreme Court in 1987 struck down a state law mandating the teaching of creationism whenever the Darwinian theory of evolution was taught in public schools. In recent years, the forces determined to put creationism back in the public school curricula have been very active. AJC continues to oppose the teaching of “creation science” in public school science classes and opposes laws mandating its instruction alongside the theory of evolution. However, AJC does not oppose reference to “creationism” as a religious belief in elective courses, for example on comparative religion, at an age-appropriate level.

C. Values Education

In June 2000, the Board of Governors adopted a statement on public education that addressed the need for public education to “focus on values and democracy.” In that statement, AJC supported public school curricula designed to reinforce commonly held, non-sectarian values such as honesty, responsibility, self-discipline, and respect for the rights and security of others. AJC stands by that statement and will continue to refer to it as a declaration of the agency’s position on values education.

D. Equal Access

The federal Equal Access Act of 1984 (EAA) requires public secondary schools that permit extracurricular student clubs to operate on school premises before and/or after the school day to allow student religious clubs to meet on school premises as well. In 1990, the American Jewish Committee filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the EAA violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Despite the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the EAA’s constitutionality, and in keeping with AJC’s 1984 statement on “Equal Access,” AJC remains opposed to “equal access” on both constitutional and public policy grounds.

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