Plaintiffs in the case the Supreme Court heard concerning loans of library books, computers and software to parochial schools do not contend that the government can provide no aid to parochial schools. And defenders of the program do not contend that the government may subsidize the religious component of parochial school education [editorial, Dec. 6].

Defenders of the program insist that so long as the materials provided are secular, the government can take it on faith that they will not be used to indoctrinate religious ideas. The plaintiffs insist that the Constitution requires enforceable guarantees that no diversion will take place and that the government may provide only materials that cannot be readily diverted to sectarian instruction. Examples of non-divertable aid include secular educational software and computers that can be used only in connection with such software, and books approved for use in the public schools.

The program as implemented in Louisiana failed to meet this latter requirement, which is hardly a high price to pay for enforcing the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state. And insisting at the outset that materials by their nature cannot be diverted to sectarian instruction will reduce the need for more intrusive official monitoring of parochial schools later to ensure that materials lent are not diverted to improper uses.


Assistant Executive Director

American Jewish Congress

New York