Achieving Equality Under the Law

46th General Assembly
November 1961
Washington, D.C.

The Union of American Hebrew Congregations has consistently opposed all forms of racial segregation because of our fundamental belief in the equality of all men under God. We have joined with all Americans of good will in continuing efforts to vindicate in every section of our land the American dream of human equality.

Recognizing that there are many approaches to the safeguarding of equal protection under law, we salute the men and women of various faiths and races who have risked their freedom and their personal safety to assert through direct, non-violent action the equal dignity of every American under the law.

We are also deeply heartened by the significant forward strides taken in recent months by such communities as Atlanta, Memphis and Dallas. We commend those public authorities and religious leaders in these and other cities who have courageously guided their communities through a peaceful transition and helped them to meet the moral challenge of desegregation with dignity and respect for law and order.

There are positive indications of our increased determination as a nation to eradicate the barriers of segregation which still divide Americans from each other. The firmness of the federal courts, the vigor of the United States Justice Department in defense of equal right, the fresh initiatives being undertaken by the President in the exercise of moral and executive leadership, the strengthened program of the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunities and other governmental agencies and the spread of needed anti-discrimination laws to a large number of states and communities—all these are earnests of progress and expressions of a national will.

We especially hail the United States Commission on Civil Rights, whose recent milestone reports have charted the urgent, unfinished business which remains in extending to every American the full measure of his dignity and rights as an American citizen. We associate ourselves with the Commission's plea for new federal legislation to safeguard equality of opportunity for all Americans in education, housing, employment and the right to vote.

Specifically, we support the Commission's recommendations that (1) effective legislation be enacted by the Congress to assure the right to vote to all Americans, thus ending the abuse of such devices as literacy tests to support racial discrimination, and (2) the President of the United States issue an Executive Order stating the national objective of equal opportunity in housing and directing all federal agencies to shape their policies and practices to this goal; and that this order apply to, among other agencies, the Federal Housing Authority, Veterans Administration, Federal National Mortgage Association and those agencies supervising financial institutions engaged in home mortgage loan business.

Gratifying as is the progress of recent years, we are painfully aware of the long climb which stretches ahead of us as a nation. Our next Biennial will take place in 1963—one hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation. We are humbled by the knowledge that if democracy cannot end segregation, segregation may end democracy. We pledge ourselves, as individual Americans and as inheritors of the dream of one brotherhood under one God, to be as zealous for the dignity and rights of our neighbors as we would have them be of ours.

We appeal to our own members and congregations, as to all men and women of good will, to redouble their efforts toward the elimination of all forms of racial injustice and to strive unceasingly to complete the mission of equal rights and full opportunities under the law.