(CNSNews.com) - State constitutional amendments adopted in the 19th and early 20th centuries as "anti-Catholic" measures are now preventing states from enacting school voucher programs that would help parents pay for private schools, according to testimony delivered Friday to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Thirty-five states have amendments prohibiting state funding of "sectarian" schools. They are often called "Blaine Amendments," a reference to U.S. Rep. James Blaine, who in 1875 led an unsuccessful effort to add the amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The original effect of the amendments was to prohibit funding of Catholic schools that were established as an alternative to the non-denominational Protestant education being offered in the early public school system. As religion was gradually pushed out of public schools, the amendments came to be applied more broadly, prohibiting funding of any religious school.
The amendments now pose a major hurdle for proponents of school choice who believe religious schools offer better educational opportunities for poor families who could not afford private tuition without government vouchers.
Anthony Picarello, vice president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that Blaine Amendments are "the last constitutional weapon available to attack democratically enacted, religion-neutral school voucher programs or social service programs that contract with faith-based providers."
read full story here
An Open Letter to Missouri's State Legislature