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Press ReleaseCivil Rights
RULE
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 ADL’s 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.



 
 
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1998 Anti-Defamation League