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NEWS: Society for Humanistic Judaism
Speaks Out Against School Vouchers

Farmington Hills, MI, May 15, 2012 — The Society for Humanistic Judaism condemns the attempts in this country to fund private schools, especially religious schools, with public funds. As Humanistic Jews, we recognize that a free and public education is a cornerstone of democracy. Using public funds in the guise of school vouchers, tax credits, and scholarships diverts much needed resources from public schools, decreasing the quality of public education and widening the educational inequality between rich and poor students.

School vouchers, tax credits, and scholarship programs disproportionately provide public funding for religious education, breaching our constitutional guarantee that government will not support the establishment of religion. Nearly 70 percent of private schools, which enroll 80 percent of private school students, provide religious education, often compelling students to attend religious services, regardless of their beliefs, and teaching religious doctrine in place of accepted scientific facts. Providing public tax dollars through vouchers, tax credits and scholarships is providing selective support for religious ideologies and practice.

While publicly-funded school vouchers, tax credits, and scholarship programs are promoted as offering parents and students a choice, in reality the choice is made by the private schools. Unlike public schools, private schools are able to discriminate on the basis of income, religion, disabilities, and other characteristics. Voucher schools are not required to accept special needs students.
The Society for Humanistic Judaism has issued a statement opposing public funding of private schools that reads in part:

As Humanistic Jews, we believe that publicly-funded vouchers, or scholarships, or tax credits – while purporting to be about choice – in reality result in the direct government funding of religious education in violation of Establishment Clause principles as embodied by the First Amendment.

The statement concludes:

Accordingly, we, the Society for Humanistic Judaism, oppose all vouchers, scholarships, and tax credits that divert resources from public schools to the benefit of private schools, especially schools that are religious in nature. Religious education must always remain privately funded so as to protect both religion and our democracy.

The Society for Humanistic Judaism is the central body for Humanistic Jewish congregations in North America. Embracing a human-centered philosophy of life that combines the celebration of Jewish culture and identity with an adherence to humanistic values and ideas, the Society creates an inclusive, nurturing environment for families with children and empty nesters, pre-schoolers and teens, university students, young adults and seniors, single parents, intermarried families, and the GLBT community. Humanistic Jews believe in the human capacity to create a better world rather than in reliance on a supernatural power or an omniscient deity, seeking solutions to human conflicts that respect the dignity, freedom, and self-esteem of every person. the human capacity to create a better world rather than in reliance on a supernatural power or an omniscient deity, seeking solutions to human conflicts that respect the dignity, freedom, and self-esteem of every person.

This growing movement provides a community for many unaffiliated Jews who identify as cultural, secular, “just Jewish,” “not very religious” or Jewish atheists. Forty-nine percent of the United States' 5.5 million Jews say that their outlook is secular and forty-eight percent do not belong to a synagogue or other Jewish organization, according to the American Jewish Identification Survey undertaken by professional statisticians under the auspices of the Center for Jewish Studies at the City University of New York. The Society helps to organize local congregations and havurot, creates and disseminates celebrational and educational materials, provides national programs, including programs for teens and young adults, and serves the needs of individual members who do not live near an existing Humanistic congregation.

For more information, contact the Society for Humanistic Judaism.

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