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NEWS RELEASE - JULY 16, 1994 KIRYAS JOEL: IS GOVERNMENT FOR SPECIAL INTERESTS? Quick action by Governor Mario Cuomo signed into law pieces of legislation designed to counteract the United States Supreme Court decision in the Kiryas Joel case less than two weeks previously. One bill allows the special school district set up for Satmar Hasidic Jews to remain in operation. The other creates criteria which probably no other village could meet and allows such a village to set up its own school district. "This appears to us as if our state government were thumbing noses at the Supreme Court," said Charles H. Sumner, president of Rochester Chapter, Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The Supreme Court in a 6 to 3 decision on June 27 said that the New York State Legislature had violated the separation of church and state by establishing such a school district. We do not think that our elected representatives should turn around and validate it again, requiring another lawsuit. In six months lawmakers failed to deal adequately with crime, low-level nuclear waste, AIDS and newborns, public works projects, the Wicks Law. They left the budget hanging for 69 days. Yet in less than two weeks they were able to enact and sign special-interest legislation which violates our constitution. To their credit a handful of legislators opposed these bills. Among these were Senators John B. Daly (R-Lewiston), Richard Dollinger (D- Brighton), Mary Ellen Jones (D-Irondequoit) and Assemblypersons Elizabeth Hoffman (R-Tonawanda) and Susan John (D-Rochester.) The purpose of the legislature in creating the special district was to yield to the demands of a religious community which has separatist tenets. Statements from the Court's decision said "... government should not prefer one to religion to another, or religion to irreligion." New York's act "... crosses the line from permissible accommodation to impermissible establishment." It "... brings about an impermissible 'fusion' of governmental and religious functions." Americans United believes in fair and equal treatment for all religions and special treatment for none. -30- ROCHESTER CHAPTER AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE 31 APPIAN DRIVE, ROCHESTER NY 14606-4717; 716-334-2989, 247-5587 CONTACT: CHARLES H. SUMNER, 334-2989;


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