Should American taxpayers be required to support church-related schools?

More and more public money is being appropriated for sectarian education, but a legal test may finally be at hand.

Last October the U. S. Supreme Court agreed to rule on whether taxpayers have standing to bring suit against state agencies that subsidize church related schools. A decision is pending.

Now the high court has also agreed to decide on the constitutionality of a New York law requiring the state’s public-school systems to lend textbooks to parochial-school students.

“If it should permit taxpayers to challenge federal spending programs on church-state grounds, and if the justices should strike down the New York school book law, the entire federal program of aid to pupils in church-related schools would be placed in jeopardy,” said a report in the New York Times.

The latest action by the Supreme Court was to hear an appeal by the school board of East Greenbush, New York, a suburb of Albany, and other upstate school officials. New York is one of seven states that lend state-owned textbooks to parochial-school students. The New York law directs school districts to lend fifteen dollars in textbooks each year to each pupil in grades seven through twelve in private schools. About $25 million is spent annually.

The New York Supreme Court declared the textbook law unconstitutional. But the Appellate Division reversed that ruling, and the East Greenbush case was appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court.

The federal government now spends about $60 million a year to purchase textbooks and provide specialized instruction for pupils in church schools.

The money line separating church and state has deteriorated steadily in recent years. Government agencies ...

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