Time for the Blaine Amendment in Texas to Die!
by Sonja Harris on September 12, 2016 at 11:45 AM
At the Amplify School Choice conference that I attended in Denver, I listened attentively when the subject of the Blaine Amendment was discussed. I had never heard of the Blaine Amendment and probably many of you haven’t either. So that you become familiar with the Blaine Amendment, a little history is needed. The Blaine Amendment will introduce you to some of the problems America has had with religious bigotry. I will focus on Religious Freedom especially for Catholics.
The constitutional amendment was introduced in the U. S. House by Maine Rep James Blaine in 1875 and while it passed the house, it died in the senate. The Blaine Amendment’s http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/BlaineReport.pdf sole purpose was to prevent public funding for Catholic parochial schools. Even in the 20th century, Catholics posed a threat to Protestantism’s dominance in public schools as Protestantism reigned in American’s public schools. For example, the accepted Protestant King James Version bible was read in the public classrooms. Not until the mid-19th century did Catholics begin to protest and resist the Protestantism in the public classrooms. The rise of Catholic immigrants coming to the United States caused religious resentment and the word ‘sectarian’ came to mean Catholic. In reality Catholic immigrants were being persecuted because of their religious beliefs.
According to the Becket Fund there are 37 states that still have some form of government restriction preventing aid to ‘sectarian’ schools, having adopted the wording contained in the Blaine Amendment. It is believed that this amendment may soon fade into the past and rightly so because of its anti-Catholic bigotry.
I found this link on Texas Constitutional Provisions stating the following:
Both tax credit and voucher programs are school choice options for Texas. The few interpretations of Texas’ Blaine Amendments and its Compelled Support Clause that exist do no(t) prohibit providing aid to parents to enable them to select public or private schools for their children. Such programs must be funded by sources other than the permanent and available school funds defined in the education article of the Texas Constitution.
Religious Freedom continues to fade and Catholic parents must be careful not to be drawn into any situation that will allow Catholic doctrine from being omitted if vouchers are to be part of school choice. School choice is meaningless to Catholic parents if freedom of religion is excluded.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
2229 As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators.38 Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.
It is interesting to note that former Governors GW Bush and Rick Perry were advocates for school vouchers and undoubtedly our present Governor Greg Abbott will make his intentions on school choice and vouchers clear in the next Texas Legislative session.
We do know that Governor Abbott has appointed Stacy Hock, the co-founder of Texans for Education Opportunity, to serve on the Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability, where she serves as vice-chair. Texans for Education Opportunity has appeared on the horizon fighting for all kinds of school choice including private and/or religious schools.
Texas cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the countless children that need to have the opportunity for a quality education so that our state can remain prosperous, and that our communities can thrive and be an asset to our great state. If you are even wondering why I am concerned about the education of our Texas students you don’t have to go any further than your local nursing homes. If we want competent care for the aging, the staff and attendants must be qualified to meet the needs of seniors. This is just one example, I’m positive you can think of a few more.
Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has made it a point to make school choice a priority in Texas and Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President, announced his intent to provide school choice. By saying, “As president, I will establish the national goal of providing school choice to every American child living in poverty. If we can put a man on the moon, dig out the Panama Canal and win two world wars, then I have no doubt that we as a nation can provide school choice to every disadvantaged child in America.”
School choice is the embodiment of the American Dream and deserves our persistent attention. We must stand together and affirm our Religious Freedom. Religious Freedom has to be foremost in school choice otherwise it will be a fruitless endeavor.
Fight, NEVER GIVE UP!