The term Blaine Amendment refers to either a failed amendment to the U.S. Constitution or actual constitutional provisions in 38 of the 50 state constitutions in the United States that forbid direct government aid to educational institutions that have a religious affiliation. They were designed to prohibit aid to parochial schools, especially those operated by the Catholic Church in locations with large immigrant populations.
Proposed federal amendment
President Ulysses S. Grant (1869–77) in a speech in 1875 to a veteran's meeting, called for a Constitutional amendment that would mandate free public schools and prohibit the use of public money for sectarian schools. Grant laid out his agenda for "good common school education." He attacked government support for "sectarian schools" run by religious organizations, and called for the defense of public education "unmixed with sectarian, pagan or atheistical dogmas." Grant declared that "Church and State" should be "forever separate." Religion, he said, should be left to families, churches, and private schools devoid of public funds.
After Grant's speech Republican Congressman James G. Blaine (1830-1893) proposed the amendment to the federal Constitution. Blaine, who actively sought Catholic votes when he ran for president in 1884, believed that possibility of hurtful agitation on the school question should be ended. In 1875, the proposed amendment passed by a vote of 180 to 7 in the House of Representatives, but failed by four votes to achieve the necessary two-thirds vote in the United States Senate. It never became law.
The proposed text was:
No State shall make any law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; and no money raised by taxation in any State for the support of public schools, or derived from any public fund therefor, nor any public lands devoted thereto, shall ever be under the control of any religious sect; nor shall any money so raised or lands so devoted be divided between religious sects or denominations.
Amendments to state constitutions
Supporters of the proposal then turned their attention to state legislatures, where their efforts met with far greater success. Eventually, all but 10 states (Arkansas, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, and West Virginia) passed laws that meet the general criteria for designation as "Blaine Amendments," in that they ban the use of public funds to support sectarian private schools. In some states the language was included in newly drafted constitutions and are not literally "amendments".
The state Blaine amendments remain in effect in many states. In 2012, 46% of voters endorsed a measure repealing Florida's Blaine Amendment. A 60% margin was required for adoption. Voters have also rejected proposals to repeal their state-level Blaine amendments in New York (1967), Michigan (1970), Oregon (1972), Washington state (1975), Alaska (1976), and Massachusetts (1986).
On April 1, 1974, voters in Louisiana approved a new constitution by a margin of 58 to 42 percent, which repealed the Blaine amendment that was part of that state's 1921 constitution. Louisiana's current 1974 constitution replaced it with a copy of the federal First Amendment's no-establishment and free exercise clauses, in Article 1, Sec. 8 of its Declaration of Rights; in Article 8, Sec. 13(a), it also guarantees the provision of free textbooks and "materials of instruction" to all children attending elementary and secondary schools in Louisiana.
Two other states, South Carolina and Utah, have also watered down their "no-aid to religion" constitutional clauses by removing from them the word "indirect," leaving only a prohibition of direct aid or assistance to religious schools in these states.
- Deforrest (2003)
- Steven Green (2010). The Second Disestablishment : Church and State in Nineteenth-Century America. Oxford University Press. p. 296.
- Olorunnipa, Toluse (November 6, 2012). "Florida voters reject most constitutional amendments, including 'religious freedom' proposal". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
- "The 27 Statewide Referenda on School Vouchers or Their Variants, 1966-2007". Americans for Religious Liberty. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
- Art.4, Sec. 8, Constitution of Louisiana, 1921: "No money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion, or in aid of any priest, preacher, minister or teacher thereof, as such, and no preference shall ever be given, nor any discrimination made against, any church, sect or creed of religion, or any form of religious faith or worship."
- Article 11, Sec. 4 of the South Carolina Constitution states, "No money shall be paid from public funds nor shall the credit of the State or any of its political subdivisions be used for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution." And Utah's constitution says, according to Article 10, Sec. 8, "Neither the state of Utah nor its political subdivisions may make any appropriation for the direct support of any school or educational institution controlled by any religious organization." Regina Reaves Hayden, annotated by Steven K. Green, Esq. Stars in the Constitutional Constellation: Federal and State Constitutional Provisions on Church and State. Silver Spring, MD: Americans United Research Foundation, 1993, p. 109, 122.
- Deforrest; Mark Edward. "An Overview and Evaluation of State Blaine Amendments: Origins, Scope, and First Amendment Concerns," Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 26, 2003 online edition
- Green, Steven K. "The Blaine Amendment Reconsidered," 36 Am. J. Legal Hist. 38 (1992)
- The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty A leading opponent of Blaine Amendments in the legal arena
- Blaineamendments.org A comprehensive resource by the Becket Fund, which seeks to overturn the amendments
- School Choice: The Blaine Amendments & Anti-Catholicism Report by the United States Commission on Civil Rights