Most of the verbal fireworks over Colorado’s school voucher bill have centered on whether parents may use state money to send children to private religious schools. And never mind that the U.S. Supreme Court last year upheld the legality of a similar program in Cleveland. Opponents in Colorado cite a particularly obnoxious clause in the state Constitution – a clause steeped in 19th century anti-Catholic bigotry – as reason to kill the voucher law and thus limit educational choice for poor children.
Here is some information on the Blaine admendment which was incorporated into Colorado’s state constitution.
Rep. James G. Blaine (1830-1893) of Maine proposed the following constitutional amendment on December 14, 1875 in reaction to efforts of, in particular, the Catholic Church to establish parochial schools. The amendment was passed by the House on August 4, 1876 by an overwhelming majority (180 votes in favor, 7 votes opposed), but failed to muster the necessary two-thirds vote in the Senate (28 votes in favor, 16 votes opposed). Afterwards, the Blaine Amendment was incorporated into a number of state constitutions, especially in the West, where its inclusion was often a prerequisite for consideration for statehood. Many First Amendment scholars consider the Blaine Amendment unconstitutional because it requires government to discriminate against religious groups.
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.
James Blaine is a Maine political icon and did a lot of good things in his career in public service as a U.S. rep., senator and governor, but this attempt at an amendment is certainly not one of them.
The “Know-Nothing” movement was particularly strong here in Maine in the mid to late 1800’s due to the huge influx of Irish Catholic immigrants adding to the already large Acadian Catholic population. My parish church, for example, had to be built under 24 hour armed guard in 1856 because of several attempts by Know-Nothings to destroy it. This was after they had tarred and feathered the resident pastor over his strong opposition to Catholic children being force-fed Protestant doctrine and the vilification of Catholicism in the public schools the previous year.
Blaine was a W.A.S.P. who was no doubt pressured heavily by his W.A.S.P. campaign contributors and fellow politicans (some of whom were undoubtedly Know-Nothings) to introduce this amendment. Even back then, the special interests had the politicos by the b-lls.
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