Publication Date: December 2003
Publisher: American Jewish Committee
Author(s): Danielle Samulon; Kara Stein; Jeffrey Sinensky
Research Area: Education; Human rights; Law and ethics
Keywords: Schools; Civil Rights; Church and State; Advocacy
Coverage: United States
Since its founding in 1906, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) has been committed to securing the civil and religious rights of Jews. AJC has always believed that the only way to achieve this goal is to safeguard the civil and religious rights of all Americans. As part of this effort, AJC filed its first amicus curiae, or "friend of the court," brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1923. In that case, Pierce v. Society of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, 268 U.S. 510 (1925), AJC supported a challenge to a Ku Klux Klan-inspired Oregon statute, aimed at Catholic parochial schools, which required that all parents enroll their children in public school or risk a criminal conviction. The Supreme Court's decision was a victory for religious freedom. The Court struck down the law unanimously, ruling that parents have a right to determine where and how their children are to be educated. Since that time, AJC has been involved in most of the landmark civil and religious rights cases in American jurisprudence. These cases have addressed the issues of free exercise of religion; separation of church and state; discrimination in employment, education, housing, and private clubs based on religion, race, sex, and sexual orientation; women's reproductive rights; and immigration and asylum rights. This litigation report describes and summarizes those cases in which AJC has participated recently.