It's official. The Catholic Knight is retired.  I'm hanging up the helmet and passing the torch. There will be no more articles, no more commentaries, no more calls to action. THIS BLOG IS CLOSED. I've spent a very long time thinking about this, I believe the time has come, and is a bit overdue.  I want to thank my readers for everything, but most especially for your encouragement and your willingness to go out there and fight the good fight. So, that being the case, I've spend the last several weeks looking for bloggers who are fairly active, and best represent something akin to the way I think and what I believe.  I recommend the following blogs for my readers to bookmark and check on regularly. Pick one as your favourite, or pick them all. They are all great..... In His Majesty's Service, THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT

Friday, January 20, 2006

An Open Letter to Missouri's State Legislature


Posted: January 21st 2006

Copies Sent:

Speaker Rod Jetton
President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons
Governor Matt Blunt

The Speaker and President Pro Tem were asked to provide copies to all members of the Missouri State Legislature.

Content:

Dear Senators and Representatives of the Missouri State Legislature,

I am asking that our state constitutional "Blaine Amendment" (Article I, Section 7; and Article IX, Section 8) be repealed, as it is fundamentally discriminatory by nature, and was originally designed for anti-Catholic purposes. Today, 37 states have provisions placing some form of restriction on government aid to "sectarian" schools that go beyond any limits in the U.S. Constitution. The word "sectarian" is important, because at the time of the Blaine Amendment's passage, mainstream Protestantism was not considered "sectarian" and Protestant Bibles (along with Protestant prayers) were regularly used in public schools. Until recently, it had not been widely known that Blaine amendments were passed as a direct result of the nativist, anti-Catholic bigotry that was a recurring theme in American politics during the 19th and early 20th centuries. More information can be obtained on this at the following Internet website: http://blaineamendments.org/

In the Supreme Court's 'Mitchell v. Helms' decision, the four-Justice plurality explicitly recognized that the term "pervasively sectarian" in First Amendment jurisprudence has a "shameful pedigree." Justice Breyer's dissent in 'Zelman v. Simmons-Harris' further develops the theme, and makes clear that the Court now recognizes that many of its school funding decisions rest on shaky ground. (Zelman held that well designed school voucher programs do not violate the Establishment Clause). Thus, the Supreme Court has effectively cleared the last remaining federal obstacle to school-choice programs.

Missouri's Blaine Amendment acts as an obstacle to the rights of Missouri's Catholics, as well as Christians of other denominations, to educate their children as they see fit. I view this more as a civil-rights issue than an educational one. As a Catholic Missourian, I believe my state's Blaine Amendment was originally designed as a discriminatory practice against people like me (Catholics) based entirely on our religion. It's original purpose was to keep us from educating our children in parochial schools, economically forcing them into public schools, and thus making them more susceptible to the non-Catholic influences there. When the Blaine Amendment was originally passed, that influence was Protestant in nature. In modern times, that influence has become more secular and humanist in nature. I understand that other Christians, along with Jews and Muslims, now suffer the same injustice along side me, due to the dogmatic (albeit misguided) belief in an impervious "wall of separation" between church and state -- especially in the area of education. So Missouri's Blaine Amendment, originally designed to discriminate against Missouri's Catholics, has now become an equal opportunity offender, discriminating against all people of faith regardless of religion or denomination. This is unfortunate and tragic. Yet, historically speaking, this reprehensible provision in our state's constitution was originally designed to target people of my own religion (Catholicism). It is especially frustrating to know that a certain state-sanctioned bigotry, originally directed toward people like me, has now come to hurt so many other people of different faiths and denominations.

I am asking you to represent Missouri's Catholics, (and thus all people of faith), by introducing legislation to repeal Missouri's discriminatory Blaine Amendment (Article I, Section 7; and Article IX, Section 8), and along with that, introduce legislation attaching Missouri's educational funds to the children of Missouri directly, rather than to specific public schools. This would allow the funds to be used specifically for education only, in whatever schools their parents deem appropriate. I ask this not only for the sake of my own children's education, but also for their civil rights and my civil rights as a Catholic parent. I am asking you to bring an end to the historical legacy of Missouri's anti-Catholic Blaine Amendment.

On Jan. 13, 2006, ABC's "20/20" featured a story by John Stossel, who showed how well students do in Belgium's "school-choice" system. Belgium's children are free to be educated in any school their parent's choose -- including religious schools -- because state money is attached to the child, not a particular school. So wherever the child goes to school, the state money (designated for educational purposes only) goes with him/her. ABC News gave part of an international test to students in Belgium and students in New Jersey. The Belgian students did much better than the New Jersey students. I would encourage you to acquire a transcript of this story from ABC for more information.

I thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to your action on this matter.