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Unorthodox Deal: Jewish Group In New York May Have Traded Political Support For State Aid

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Adsos Letter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 03:07 PM
Original message
Unorthodox Deal: Jewish Group In New York May Have Traded Political Support For State Aid
Edited on Wed Apr-06-11 03:18 PM by Adsos Letter
SOURCE: The Wall of Separation
April 6th, 2011
By Rob Boston

The state of New York faces a daunting budget shortfall of $10 billion. The states public schools and universities have been told to expect a 10 percent across-the-board funding cut.

So naturally its time for state legislators to approve an $18 million appropriation for Orthodox Jewish seminary students.

The funding measure, buried in an 800-page state budget, will affect about 5,000 students attending 50 ultra-conservative rabbinical schools in the state. Previously, these students had not been eligible for funding under New Yorks Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). Now they will even though their training is strictly religious.

The allocation, New York Jewish Week reported, appears to have been part of a larger effort by political forces in the state to woo members of the conservative Jewish community. State Sen. Dean Skelos, who serves as Republican Senate majority leader, represents a district that includes several areas of Nassau County where many Orthodox live.


caveat emptor: These are allegations; I haven't had time to check the New York Jewish Week article.

For clarity and integrity's sake, I would welcome the input of any New Yorkers with insight into this story.

Also: this is not intended to paint the Jewish community of New York, or any portion thereof, as either more or less involved in political influence than any other group; at the bottom of the linked article, the author calls-out Liberty University's massive governmental funding support. Many, many, many groups swap political support in return for favorable legislation, as we are well aware. The issue is in the Constitutionality of the desired legislation.
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davidinalameda Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 03:24 PM
Response to Original message
1. why is this even news
politicians trade favors with groups every day

and one can certainly argue that seminary students are training for jobs

why should the government discriminate on the type of job training that it funds
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Adsos Letter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 07:14 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. "politicians trade favors with groups every day"
Edited on Wed Apr-06-11 07:32 PM by Adsos Letter
And I said as much in my highlighted note at the bottom of the OP. And the Democrats have also been involved, historically, in the attempt to get TAP funding for rabbinical institutions. I'm non-partisan when it comes to Church/State issues; I object to an assault on it from any religious group or political party, including President Obama's increase in Faith-based funding.

From The Jewish Week LINK:

But the funding is also bound to raise hackles at a time when Albany faced tough budget decisions, slashing funding for vital social service programs, reducing education spending and cutting aid to New York City that could lead to the layoffs of thousands of teachers.
But the Washington-based group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which has fought against state-chartered schools that teach Arabic or Hebrew culture, is considering a legal challenge.

But AU also challenges the Constitutionality of taxpayer funding for all clergy training; from the Jewish Week article:

We believe that the training of clergy should be paid for by members of the various faiths, not the taxpayer, said Robert Boston, a spokesman for the group.

Henry Stern, founder of NY Civic, a government watchdog group, said he viewed the funding as a ploy to get Orthodox support in the 2012 races and said it represents a serious First Amendment question.

My issue, and AU's, is the role of tax monies used for funding religious education, and as part of a larger erosion occuring nationwide (from further down in The Jewish Week
In other news likely to impact efforts to publicly fund religious education, the U.S. Supreme Court this week upheld the right of Arizona to grant income tax credits for contributions to private tuition scholarship groups that help students at private schools.

In a 5-4 opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the high court overturned a lower courts ruling that the credits were unconstitutional on grounds that those who brought the suit had no standing to do so. The ruling said the funds to religious education do not come from the state but from private citizens, and so could not be blocked by the plaintiffs.

The high court upheld school choice today, said Nathan Diament, director of public policy for the Orthodox Union on Monday. The principles of government respect for private choices in education and government neutrality in programs which can aid and support such private choices is a critical issue for the Orthodox Jewish community and other American faith communities.

But the Anti-Defamation League called the decision a setback for religious liberty.

The distinction the court drew in this case between tax credits and treasury expenditures is illogical and misguided, said National Director Abraham Foxman and National Chair Robert G. Sugarman in a statement. However, what is more disturbing about the ruling is that the Supreme Court has dramatically undercut the ability of taxpayers to protect religion and government by intervening when government money is improperly spent.


New York's decision seems to be another chip away at an already eroding separation of Church and State at the level of the various states, and at the federal level as well. As Boston noted in his article linked in the OP, New York is operating in a spirit counter to that of their state constitution, and not in a progresive direction (obviously constitutions can be modified to increase rights, liberty, etc., progressive values).

Article IX, sec. 3 of the New York State Constitution:

(Use of public property or money in aid of denominational schools prohibited; transportation of children authorized)

3. Neither the state nor any subdivision thereof, shall use its property or credit or any public money, or authorize or permit either to be used, directly or indirectly, in aid or maintenance, other than for examination or inspection, of any school or institution of learning wholly or in part under the control or direction of any religious denomination, or in which any denominational tenet or doctrine is taught, but the legislature may provide for the transportation of children to and from any school or institution of learning. (Formerly 4 of Art. 9. Renumbered and amended by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people November 8, 1938. Formerly 4, renumbered 3 without change by amendment approved by vote of the people November 6, 1962; former 4 repealed by same amendment.)
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Adsos Letter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 07:59 PM
Response to Original message
3. kick for the east coast evening crew; and perhaps someone from NY could give more insight into this.
I welcome perspective.
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