American Jewish Congress Sues Clinton Era Volunteerism Program
Rick.Garnett.4 at ND.EDU
Tue Oct 15 11:50:42 PDT 2002
With respect to the AJC suit concerning Americorps -- I am quite familiar
with Notre Dame's ACE program (it is a lot like "Teach for America"), and
with the great work it does in under-resourced schools in the South.
List members should know that the factual premise of the AJC's suit -- that
the Corporation for National Service is "sponsoring the teaching of
religion in sectarian schools" -- is incorrect.
As I understand it, ACE teachers are recent graduates of colleges and
universities from around the country, who teach in parochial schools,
primarily in low-income areas in the South. No federal funds are used to
pay teachers for their teaching, whether in secular subjects or in
religious education. What actually happens, as I understand it, is this --
ACE teachers themselves earn advanced degrees in education, here at Notre
Dame, and part of their tuition and other expenses are supported by
Americorps money. Thus, government money is being used to train teachers
-- clearly a "secular purpose" -- in the entirely non-"sectarian" subject
of teaching, at what is, in the Court's view, a non-pervasively-sectarian
Now, it is true that many ACE teachers are motivated to serve by their
faith and social-justice beliefs. And, the summer programs, though which
they earn their masters, do include opportunities to attend Mass and
pray. And, ACE volunteers "in the field" do live and pray together in
community. But surely the religious motives, beliefs, or activities of
otherwise eligible beneficiaries of religion-neutral government programs do
not invalidate those programs, or disqualify those beneficiaries?
For what it's worth, I do not see how a program that trains teachers --
employing religion-neutral criteria, etc. -- is rendered unconstitutional
simply because the teachers, once trained, work in Catholic schools (again,
to be clear, there is no connection between the tuition assistance the
teachers-in-training get and any religion-related activities or education
in these parochial schools; i.e., ACE teachers get no "credit" for teaching
religion) or live and pray together. Certainly, the government is not
"directly" funding religious education, either of the students in parochial
schools, or of the ACE teachers themselves. And, if the AJC's claim is
that permitting teachers -- whose education training is partially funded
through Americorps -- to practice their craft in Catholic schools is an
unconstitutional endorsement of religion (because people will think, "ah,
Americorps, government, teachers, Catholic schools, establishment!"?),
shouldn't this claim fail?
At 10:25 AM 10/15/2002 -0400, you wrote:
>I thought the following press release from the AJC might be of interest to
>AJCongress Charges in Suit That AmeriCorps Violates Constitution
>by Permitting Volunteers to Teach Religion with Government Support
>To: National Desk
>Contact: Stephen Steiner of the American Jewish Congress,
>212-360-1540; e-mail: pr at ajcongress.org;
>WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Charging that a federally chartered
>and federally funded Corporation is exceeding its statutory mandate -- and
>more importantly, violating the Constitution -- by sponsoring the teaching
>of religion in sectarian schools, the American Jewish Congress today filed
>suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
>against the Corporation for National and Community Service in connection
>with its AmeriCorps program. The suit demands that such actions, which
>have been encouraged at least since 1999 -- long before the current debate
>over charitable choice -- cease. The lawsuit seeks an injunction against
>further funding of such religious instruction in sectarian schools.
>The AmeriCorps national service program was created in 1993 to enable
>recent college graduates to earn funds to repay student loans or to
>finance post-graduate education by teaching in public or private schools.
>In the complaint filed today with the District Court, AJCongress charges
>-- as the Corporation indeed concedes -- that many program participants
>are teaching religion in sectarian schools. Corporation officials maintain
>that religious instruction is provided only in time not charged to the
>program; AJCongress declares in its complaint, however, that a teacher
>sponsored by and publicly identified with the AmeriCorps program "is still
>engaged in religious indoctrination in violation of the First Amendment."
>AJCongress also maintains that the Corporation makes grants for so-called
>"administrative costs" to sectarian institutions or programs, such as the
>Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), enabling them to inculcate the
>AmeriCorps participants with "Christian values" including "daily mass and
>prayer services." ACE AmeriCorps participants funded by the Corporation,
>notes the complaint, are expected "to live and work in a Christian
>community" and to "pray together regularly." The ACE program is affiliated
>with three sectarian organizations, most prominently, the University of
>Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. AJCongress maintains in its complaint that
>the Corporation's actions have the effect of endorsing religion, which is
>in violation of the First Amendment principle of separation of church and
>The lawsuit is being handled for AJCongress by Irvin B. Nathan, Daniel S.
>Pariser and Sarah B. Kotler of the Washington law firm Arnold & Porter.
>Nathan is a member of the AJCongress Executive Committee. AJCongress legal
>director Marc D. Stern is Of counsel in the case.
>Jim "No Good Deed Goes Unscrutinized" Henderson
Richard W. Garnett
Notre Dame Law School
Notre Dame, IN 46556
garnett.4 at nd.edu
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