Religious Schools Should Receive State Funds for Special Education—Even in California

A group of Jewish parents and schools have taken to federal court to challenge a California law forbidding “sectarian” educational institutions from receiving money for special-education programs to which secular private schools are entitled. Michael A. Helfand explains their case:

Over the past two decades, the U.S. Supreme Court has not only made clear the First Amendment allows states to include religious schools in government-funding programs; it has also made clear that once a state makes funding generally available to private schools, excluding religious schools constitutes religious discrimination prohibited by the First Amendment.

As a result, the challenge to California’s legal regime is likely to ensure not only that Jewish institutions can work alongside the state to support special needs, but also that religious institutions cannot be discriminated against when it comes to government funding. Religious families with children with special needs will hopefully no longer have to choose between the care their children need and their religious observance.

For much of the 20th century, this sort of religious exclusion was viewed as constitutionally necessary in order to preserve separation between church and state. Under prevailing legal doctrine at the time, the Supreme Court viewed allowing government funds to flow to religious institutions as impermissibly entangling church and state.

But at the turn of the 21st century, the Supreme Court’s view began to shift. Instead of interpreting separation of church and state to prohibit such funding, the Supreme Court argued that such separation could be achieved simply by treating religious institutions neutrally. Thus, religious institutions should not receive more funding than similarly situated institutions; but if they received equal funding on equal terms as their secular counterparts, all was constitutionally kosher.

Read more at Forward

More about: American law, California, Freedom of Religion, Jewish education


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount