Holyoke Mayor Cites Brotherhood, Defending School Loan to Catholics

by Laurel | February 13th, 2007

[Adapted from the Berkshire Eagle, 13 February 1959.]

Holyoke, Mass.—The mayor and superintendent of schools today challenged the Civil Liberties Union for its stand against the temporary use of public school facilities for parochial school pupils.

The Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts protested yesterday that free city housing recently provided for Roman Catholic parochial school classes violates the principle of church-state separation in the federal and state constitutions.

Mayor Samuel Resnic, who is of the Jewish faith, declared; “I’d do it again. We’re just observing Brotherhood Week—and how better?”

School Head Defiant

School Superintendent William R. Peck said Holyoke residents can settle their own problems without “outside dictation.”A letter by the executive committee of the CLU to the Holyoke School Committee yesterday cited the Massachusetts law which provides that “no public money nor property may be used to help any school where denominational doctrine is taught.”

The letter was signed by the Rev. Gardiner M. Day, chairman of the committee and rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Cambridge.

The situation arose last December when the 85-year-old Mater Dolorosa parochial school was closed as unsafe. Its 800 pupils were dispersed among classes in Immaculate Conception parochial school and in three public schools.

(Of the public schools given in load, one, the Ingleside School, had been withdrawn from public school use and used as a community recreation center. Space also has been loaned in two currently used public schools, the West Street and the William Whiting schools.)

The parochial school students housed in the city schools are taught by nuns and their classes are separate from those attended by pupils on the rolls of the city schools.

Mayor Resnic admitted that a technical violation of the law might exist, but he added no violation exists in humanitarian terms and ventured the opinion that “the courts will sustain our interpretation of the law.”

He added that the Civil Liberties Union is a well-meaning organization, but nevertheless, “in this city there is an excellent relationship between all peoples.”

Peck said: “Let those people who feel so outraged resort to whatever remedy they believe exists? Everyone in Holyoke is happy with the situation. If the CLU is so anxious to protect rights, they’d better apply a few of their fundamental principles to our situation and let us settle it without outside dictation.”

Meanwhile, Catholic church officials yesterday launched a $340,000 fund drive to build a new Mater Dolorosa school.

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