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May 27, 1999

ORTHODOX UNION ACCEPTS OHIO SUPREME COURT SCHOOL VOUCHER DECISION; SAYS GOOD NEWS OUTWEIGHS BAD

Contact: Nathan Diament, (202) 857-2770

Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, through its Institute for Public Affairs, accepted a long awaited opinion by the Ohio Supreme Court on Cleveland’s school voucher program. The state’s highest court ruled that the program does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, but did invalidate the program under technical provisions of the Ohio Constitution that require legislative bills to contain only a single subject matter. The UOJCA had filed a friend of the court brief in support of the Pilot Scholarship Program.

Writing for the majority, Ohio Supreme Court Justice stated that ‘[w]hatever link between government and religion is created by the school voucher program is indirect, depending only on the ‘genuinely independent and private choices’ of individual parents, who act for themselves and their children, not for the government.’ This ruling on the challenges raised against the program on the basis of ‘church-state separation’ arguments was 4-0, with three justices declining to reach those issues. The ruling on the Ohio Constitution point was 5-2.

In reaction to the ruling, IPA director Nathan Diament, stated that ‘the good news in this opinion far outweighs the bad. Supporters of school choice have already developed approaches to address the technical issues raised by the court under Ohio’s constitution and the legislature and the governor can keep this important program running. Most significantly, the court has once again sent a clear message that the U.S. Constitution does not bar properly structured school choice programs; empowering parents to decide how to educate their kids ‘ whether in public, private or parochial schools ‘ is not an improper establishment of religion. The Orthodox Jewish community will continue to work with others in the education reform community to keep the Cleveland program running and expand the opportunities for school choice around the nation.’


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