ADL ON CAPITOL HILL: ISTOOK "RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
AMENDMENT" IS RELIGIOUS COERCION IN DISGUISE
New York, NY, April 30, 1998
Predicting that the passage of the
"Religious Freedom Amendment" would take the country back to the days when
public schools forced a single religion upon students of myriad faiths, the
Anti-Defamation (ADL) today lobbied Members of Congress to vote against it to preserve the
separation of church and state.
Meeting with Representatives who either support the amendment, authored
by Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK), or who have yet to make up their minds, ADL officials
discussed how the Istook Amendment threatens church-state separation, why it is
unnecessary and where it would lead if passed.
"The cleverly named "Religious Freedom Amendment"
constitutes one of the most pernicious and dangerous assaults on religious freedom that we
have seen in many years," said Howard P. Berkowitz, ADL National Chairman. "It
is really religious coercion in disguise and opens the door for public schools to impose
prayer and religious ceremony on students, as well as for religious symbols in courthouses
and other government institutions. Passage of the Amendment would allow for an
unprecedented entanglement of government and religion to the detriment of both."
In making the case why such a Constitutional amendment is unnecessary,
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, said, "The First Amendment already
safeguards religious freedom. Indeed, it has enabled religion and religious diversity to
flourish in America more than anywhere else in the world." Mr. Foxman warned that,
"if supporters of the Istook Amendment are successful, America could be transformed
into a society that is much less tolerant of and hospitable to religious minorities. This
Amendment threatens to Christianize America and jeopardize the ability of
non-Christians to live free from religious coercion."
Mr. Berkowitz and Mr. Foxman, along with Richard Glovsky, ADL National
Civil Rights Chairman, and Elizabeth J. Coleman, ADL Director of Civil Rights, also met
Members of Congress opposed to the Amendment to thank them for their support.
The lobbying effort today was part of ADLs ongoing campaign to
safeguard religious freedom and religious diversity in America by ensuring the separation
of church and state.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.