- Blaine Introduction
- Blaine Scholarship
- Recent Cases
Blaine Amendments are provisions in dozens of state constitutions that prohibit the use of state funds at “sectarian” schools. Blaine Amendments are named after James G. Blaine, a former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, who proposed such an amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1875. The amendment passed overwhelmingly (180-7) in the House, but failed (by 4 votes) in the Senate. Although the amendment failed narrowly, state-level versions were wildly successful. And in several states, adoption of Blaine Amendments was made an explicit condition for entering the Union.
James G. Blaine had a long and varied career as a lawyer, teacher, journalist and most notably, as a politician. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1830, and did not move to Maine until 1854. For next five years, he worked as a newspaper editor and was a leader in the formation of the Republican party in Maine. Although he was a member of the Maine legislature for only four years (1859-1863), he served the last two of them as speaker of the state house of representatives.
He won election to the U.S. House of Representatives, and served there from March 4, 1863 until July 10, 1876, when he resigned. He was Speaker of the House from 1869 to 1875, and it was during this period that he authored the proposed “Blaine Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution.
Blaine ran for president three times, in 1876, 1880 and 1884. In the 1876 contest, he was considered the logical choice for the Republican nomination, but shortly before the nominating convention began, a House investigating committee accused him of using his position as speaker to get a land grant for a railroad in Arkansas and then sell the railroad’s bonds at a tidy profit. Blaine lost the nomination to Rutherford B. Hayes, on a narrow convention vote of 379-351. He was named to the U.S. Senate in 1876. He sought the Republican presidential nomination again in 1880, but lost to James A. Garfield, who won the general election and appointed Blaine Secretary of State. When Garfield was assassinated, Blaine resigned and retired briefly to private life.
In 1884, he finally won the Republican presidential nomination (on the convention’s fourth ballot). The general election contest was very close, and was decided by New York, where Blaine lost by 1,047 votes. During the campaign, Blaine listened impassively at a New York rally at which Rev. Samuel Buchard, a Presbyterian minister, derided Democrats as “the party whose antecedents are rum, Romanism, and rebellion.” The slur angered the large number of Irish Catholic voters in the state, and when Blaine declined to disavow Buchard’s remarks, his chances of winning the state slipped away.
Blaine had been expected to seek the Republican nomination again in 1888, but surprised everyone by supporting Benjamin Harrison for the job instead. When Harrison won, he once again appointed Blaine Secretary of State. Three days before the 1892 convention, Blaine resigned from the State Department and sought the Republican nomination a final time. But Harrison was renominated, and Blaine died the following year.
Blaine’s official portrait as Secretary of State
Links to organizations concerned with the Blaine Amendment debate
- The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (sponsor of the Blaine Amendments.org website and a leading opponent of Blaine Amendments in the legal arena)
- The Heritage Foundation (publisher of a book and a website covering the school choice movement in all 50 states)
- The Institute for Justice (another leading opponent of Blaine Amendments in the legal arena)
- U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination (subdivision of Justice Department that enforces statutory and constitutional protections against religious discrimination)
oth specialty news media and general audience news media have begun to pay considerable interest to Blaine Amendments and their importance in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris. Following is a list of recently published news articles of which we’re aware. If the full article is available on-line without cost, the full link is given. Where articles must be accessed for a fee using the newspaper’s search engine, only the link to the paper’s home page is provided. If you know of a news article on the subject that is not listed here, please contact the webmaster.
- Supreme Court Hears Arguments on State Scholarships, by Jacquelyn Horkan, The Florida Catholic, June 24, 2005
- Justices Question Legislator’s Authority, by Kimberly Miller, Palm Beach Post, June 8, 2005
Groups Ready to Rally in Capital, by Jennifer Booth Reed, News-Press, June 7, 2005 (shows facts and history of FL vouchers)
- High Court’s Voucher Ruling May Ricochet to Other Issues, by John Kennedy, Orlando Sentinel, June 5, 2005
- Debate Hinges on Amendment Language, by Kimberly Miller, Palm Beach Post, June 4, 2005
- Justices To Decide Future of Vouchers, by Joe Follick, The Ledger, May 31, 2005
- Challenge Continues to Massachusetts Blaine Amendment, by George A. Clowes, School Reform News, November 1, 2004
Florida Hands Legal Setback to School Plan, by Jacob Gershman, New York Sun, August 17, 2004
- When a Win May Not Mean Much; Church & State; Ruling Denying State Scholarship Aid to Divinity Student, The Humanist, May 1, 2004
- States Can Ban Scholarships for Theology; Rehnquist Leads 7-Vote Majority in Washington State Case That Some See as Setback for School Voucher Proponents, by Tony Mauro, Legal Times, March 1, 2004
- Justices Say States May Deny Theology Scholarship Funds, by Mike McKee, The Legal Intelligencer, February 27, 2004
- State Aid for Divinity Study Not Required, Court Rules, by Tony Mauro, The Recorder, February 26, 2004
Court Rules States Can Deny Scholarships to Divinity Students, by Stephen Henderson, Knight Ridder Washington Bureau, February 26, 2004
- Senator at Root of Battle on Church-State Funding; Many States Adopted ‘Blaine Amendment’ After His Efforts for National Law Failed in Senate, by Dave Williams, Florida Times-Union, February 9, 2004
- Perdue Touts Faith-Based Initiatives, by Nancy Badertscher, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 7, 2003
- The Court and Religious Liberty, by E.J. Dionne Jr., Chattanooga Times Free Press, December 4, 2003
- Court Weighs Religious Studies; White House Seeks to Overturn State Funding Ban, by George Archibald, Washington Times, December 3, 2003
- Justices Resist Religious Study Using Subsidies, by Linda Greenhouse, New York Times, December 3, 2003
- High Court Hears Religious-Studies Case, by Charles Lane, Washington Post, December 3, 2003
Washington State Court Case Could Affect School Choice Issue, by Scott Stephens, Plain Dealer, December 2, 2003
- Court Weighs Religious Studies, by George Archibald, Washington Times, December 2, 2003
- Let Students Study God; State Laws Block Cash for Theology Programs. The Supreme Court Should Stop That, by Dick Komer, Legal Times, December 1, 2003
- Harvard Law Student on Top of the Docket; Former Divinity Student Presses Church-State Case, by Tony Mauro, Legal Times, December 1, 2003
- Constitutional Amendment to Provide Greater Access to Family and Social Services, Website of Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue, November 25, 2003
- Faith-Based Aid May Hinge on High Court, by Andrew Mollison, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 14, 2003
- Confusion Continues Over Faith-Based Federal Funding, by Andrew Mollison, Cox News Service, October 13, 2003
- Weblog: Supreme Court Will Take on ‘Blaine Amendments’, by Ted Olsen, Christianity Today, May 20, 2003
- Colorado Legislature Moved Closer to Repealing the State Constitution’s “Blaine Amendment, by Tom Hutton, Legal Clips, April 2003
School Voucher Supporters Take Their Mission to Court–A Successful Effort Could Boost President’s Faith-Based Initiatives, by Barbara C. Neff; Newark Star-Ledger, February 23, 2003
- Proponents of Vouchers See Opening, by Mary Leonard, Boston Globe, November 18, 2002
Voucher backers embrace doctrine; Little-known tenet supports position, advocates argue, by Jan Murphy; The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, PA), August 25, 2002 (articles in this paper archived on-line for only 14 days)
States are new arena in voucher showdown; Laws may conflict with court ruling, by Jan Crawford Greenburg; The Chicago Tribune, August 9, 2002 (discusses how pro-voucher lawsuits will argue that Blaine Amendments are so restrictive of religious expression that they violate the federal Constitution)
In States, Hurdles Loom, by Laurie Goodstein; The New York Times, June 30, 2002 (registration required)
Private School Aid Efforts Will Face State Challenges; Legal Barriers Likely to Impede Use of Funds, by Mary Leonard; The Boston Globe, June 28, 2002
Court Decision Bolsters Those Battling Anti-Voucher Amendment, by Steve Leblanc; The Boston Globe, June 27, 2002 (discusses the fate of Massachusetts’ Anti-Aid Amendment in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Zelman decision)
- Missouri Law Drives Up Cost of Delivering Federal Programs to Private Schools; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 2, 2000
Opinion and Analysis
ollowing is a list of recently published opinion and analysis pieces, as well as book reviews. If you know of an opinion piece on the subject that is not listed here, please contact the webmaster.
Why Stop Decades Of School Choice Now?, by Clark Neily, Tampa Tribune, January 18, 2005
- Blaine in Florida, The New York Sun, August 17, 2004
Supreme Court Made the Right Call; Beliefs, by Cary McMullen, The Ledger, March 6, 2004
Court’s Decision Misguided, The Daily News Leader, February 29, 2004
Misplaced Passion; Supreme Court’s Scholarship Decision Erodes Religious Freedom, by David C. Steinmetz, Orlando Sentinel, February 28, 2004
Compromise Would Satisfy All in Faith-Based Debate, by Michael J. Broyde, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 11, 2004
- Blaine Amendments Have Harmed America’s Education System, by Bill Donahue, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 9, 2003
- Just Case, Bad Trend, by E. J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post, December 4, 2003
- Can the State Refrain from Funding Education of the Clergy, When It Funds Secular Education?, by Marci Hamilton, Findlaw.com, December 4, 2003 (opposes Mr. Davey)
- Choice Before the Court, The New York Sun, December 2, 2003
- Church, State and Education, New York Times, December 2, 2003
- A Case of Church and State and the States, By Charles Lane, The Washington Post, December 1, 2003
- The Blaine Game, by Michael McGough, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 30, 2003
- Washington State’s Blaine Amendment Violates the U.S. Constitution, CATO, September 10, 2003
Historic Moment for School Choice; Opponents Must Rely on an Unsavory Amendment; editorial, Rocky Mountain News, April 17, 2003
Cleanup Time; editorial, Florida Times Union, February 4, 2003
Free kids from failing schools – Let’s put aside the vestiges of bigotry and allow vouchers – and children – a chance, by David L. Brennan; op-ed published in The Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), September 3, 2002
Catholic schools need no shackles; Government vouchers come with strings, by Thomas Roeser; op-ed published in the Chicago Sun-Times, August 31, 2002
Breaking through Blaine’s roadblock, by Marvin Olasky; World Magazine, August 24, 2002 (opposes Blaine Amendments, includes a fairly detailed history of their origins)
Retrograde on School Choice, by Nathan J. Diament; op-ed column published in The Washington Post, August 22, 2002 (opposes Blaine Amendments as a barrier to school choice)
Dredging Up Ugliness in the Name of Vouchers, by K. Hollyn Hollman; letter to the editor published in The Washington Post, August 31, 2002 (favors Blaine Amendments, response to 8/22 Nathan Diament op-ed)
Florida Anti-Voucher Court Ruling Gives Lesson in ‘Three R’s’, by Frank A. Shepard and Harold E. Johnson; The Tampa Tribune, August 18, 2002
Vouchers – Florida Ruling; editorial, The Cincinnati Enquirer, August 8, 2002
The Next Voucher Battleground; editorial, The Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2002
Dump Bigoted Blaine Language; editorial, Rocky Mountain News, July 28, 2002 (fee charged for full article) (argues against state constitutional barriers to school choice in the wake of Zelman decision)
The School Choice Fallout; editorial, The Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2002 (discusses implications of 9th Circuit Davey v. Locke decision)
Voucher Ruling is Key in Our Push to Improve Education, by Matthew Carolan and Raymond J. Keating; Newsday, July 9, 2002
The Right Thing; Why Liberals Should be Pro-Choice, by Diane Ravitch; The New Republic, October 8, 2001 (includes a brief history of Blaine Amendments and the anti-Catholic bigotry motivating them)
Court rights wrong term in school ruling, by Larry Witham; The Washington Times, July 2, 2000
Revenge of the Know-Nothings; editorial, The Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2000
Yes, Vouchers are Constitutional, by Richard E. Morgan; City Journal, August 1998 (argues that strict separationism is at odds with the legal and constitutional understanding held throughout most of American history)
Religious Prejudice Caused Church and State Separation; posted on the University of Virginia School of Law website on September 19, 2002 (summary of lecture given by Law School Dean John C. Jeffries Jr.)
Please Don’t Blaine Us Again, by Alan E. Sears; posted on Crosswalk.com, date uncertain (President of Alliance Defense Fund decries Florida ruling in Holmes v. Bush–which declared vouchers unconstitutional–as well as the state Blaine Amendment which served as the basis for the ruling)
The Pain of Blaine (Amendments) Is On the Wane?, by David W. Kirkpatrick; posted on Schoolreformers.com website, May 1, 2002 (provides background information on Blaine Amendments)
The Bigotry of ‘Blaine Amendments’, by David W. Kirkpatrick; posted on the Schoolreformers.com website, April 24, 2002 (discusses Blaine and the origins of the modern public school system
Getting over the Wall, by Robert Bork; The Public Interest, Fall 2002 (posted on the University of Chicago Law School website) (review of Separation of Church and State, by Philip Hamburger)
Church, state ‘wall’ not idea of Jefferson: Fear of Catholics by justice cited, by Larry Witham; The Washington Times, August 5, 2002 (fee charged for full article) (article about Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State, by Daniel L. Dreisbach)
Evolution of Words That Aren’t There, by Peter Steinfels; The New York Times, 7/6/02 (article about Separation of Church and State, by Philip Hamburger)
Christ Church New Jersey et al v. Rockaway Township
Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, Massachusetts, 2011-2014
Freedom from Religion Foundation v. Hanover School District, New Hampshire, 2007-2011
Newdow v. Rio Linda Union School District, California, 2005-2010
Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Koskinen – Holy Cross Anglican Church (2013-2014)
Town of Greece v. Galloway
ACLU of New Jersey v. Schundler (1995-1999)
Smith v. Haley (2006-2008)
ACLU of New Jersey v. Township of Wall (1999-2001)
Atheists of Florida v. City of Lakeland (2012-2013)
Recent federal court decisions have acknowledged that Blaine Amendments are rooted in nativist bigotry, and recent state court decisions have interpreted Blaine Amendments narrowly to avoid constitutional violation. Additional cases are pending, and more are on the way. This page will be updated periodically to reflect recent developments.
Pucket v. Rounds, No. 03-CV-5033 (D.S.D., filed March 29, 2004) (challenging decision based on South Dakota Constitution to deny public busing to students because of their affiliation with religious school). Discovery resumed after stay pending November 2004 election.
Boyette v. Galvin, 311 F. Supp. 2d 237 (D. Mass 2004) (rejecting constitutional challenges to Massachusetts‘ forerunner of Blaine Amendment, and to state prohibition on referenda to repeal Blaine Amendment), on appeal sub nom. Wirzburger v. Galvin, No. 04-1625 (1st Cir., filed May 19, 2004).
Saint Louis University v. Masonic Temple Association, S.W.3d (Mo. 2007), No. SC88075 (Missouri Supreme Court held that the City of St. Louis did not violate the state’s ‘Blaine Amendment’ by providing ‘tax-increment financing’ to Saint Louis University, a Jesuit, Catholic University, to assist in the construction of a 13,000-seat arena to be used for secular purposes such as sporting events and graduation ceremonies. While Article IX, Section 8 of the Missouri Constitution forbids state and local government from financially supporting schools ‘controlled by any religious creed, church or sectarian denomination whatever,’ the Supreme Court found that the University does not attempt to ‘indoctrinate the faith’ nor is the University controlled by it.)
Bush v. Holmes, 886 So. 2d 340 (Fla. 1st DCA 2004) (finding that Florida’s statewide school voucher system violates the Florida Blaine Amendment, and rejecting claim that such an interpretation of the Blaine Amendment violates the state constitution), on appeal, Nos. SC04-2323, SC04-2324, SC04-2325 (Fla. S. Ct., filed Dec. 10, 2004).
California Statewide Communities Development Authority v. All Persons Interested in the Matter of the Validity of a Purchase Agreement, 116 Cal. App. 4th 877 (Cal. Ct. App. 2004) (affirming judgment that proposals for the issuance of tax-exempt bonds for the benefit of religious schools had violated Cal. Const. art. XVI, � 5 and where schools were pervasively sectarian, conduit financing had the direct and substantial effect of aiding religion). Granted review by California Supreme Court.
Barnes-Wallace v. Boy Scouts of America, 275 F. Supp. 2d 1259 (S.D. Cal. 2003) (holding a reasonable observer would perceive an advancement of religion as a result of the failure to use a neutral process in selecting lessees for the parklands. Thus, the city’s long-term lease of public parkland to the BSA violated state and federal Establishment Clauses and the state constitution’s No Preference and No Aid Clauses.) Granted review by Ninth Circuit. Other issues proceeding in district court.
Anderson v. Town of Durham, (Me. Super. 2003) (No. Civ.A. CV-02-480) (dismissing case for failure to state a claim. State law requires that municipalities contract with a public school outside the municipality or reimburse those students who choose to attend an approved private school, a public school, or a school approved for tuition purposes in another state. School department claimed request for reimbursement for tuition payments made to private Catholic high school claim was barred by statute which excludes the participation of sectarian schools from the state’s tuition reimbursement program.) Pending before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
Williams v. Georgia, 2005 WL 2156135 (N.D.Ga. Aug 11, 2005) (NO. 105-CV-0427) (involving Plaintiff parents seeking a voucher remedy of the state for its hindering their fundamental liberty rights as parents to control the education of their children, through a variety of restrictive policies. School system claims that Plaintiff’s request for funds for children to attend either religious or non-sectarian private schools would require the court to act outside the constitutional limitations of its judicial power).
United States Supreme Court:
Locke v. Davey, 540 U.S. 712 (2004) (upholding decision based on Washington State Constitution to rescind state college scholarship because student chose to study religion)(‘The amici contend that Washington’s Constitution was born of religious bigotry because it contains a so-called ‘Blaine Amendment,’ which has been linked with anti-Catholicism. . . . [H]owever, the provision in question is not a Blaine Amendment. . . . Accordingly, the Blaine Amendment’s history is simply not before us.’).
Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639 (2002) (dissenting opinion of Breyer, J.) (acknowledging that Protestant efforts to maintain religious dominance in public schools ‘played a significant role in creating a movement that sought to amend several state constitutions [often successfully], and to amend the United States Constitution [unsuccessfully] to make certain that government would not help pay for ‘sectarian’ [i.e., Catholic] schooling for children’).
Thirty-seven states have provisions in their constitutions that explicitly bar government aid to so-called “sectarian” schools or institutions. As seven Justices of the current Supreme Court have recognized–along with a growing number of legal academics and historians–the term “sectarian” was code for “Catholic,” and was added to state constitutions in order to enforce the nativist bigotry of the day. Some Blaine Amendments are very restrictive, some are more permissive, whether by their terms or by judicial interpretation. Some were enacted immediately following the failed attempt to attach a Blaine Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1875. Others were adopted during the decades before, when anti-immigrant hatred was still building. Still others became law during the early part of the 20th century, during a resurgence of anti-immigrant sentiment. All pose a potential threat to the adoption of school choice programs, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, which made clear that the federal Constitution permits such aid.
Click on the links below to view each state’s Blaine Amendment and related laws and decisions. Neither the state-specific pages, nor any other part of this website, intends to or actually does provide legal advice.