What is a Blaine Amendment and how does it affect Catholic school parents?

James G. Blaine

Blaine Amendments appear in 40 state constitutions. They are vestiges of anti-Catholic sentiments that were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in America as large immigrant Catholic populations moved to the new world seeking a better life for themselves and their children. Named for James G. Blaine, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives who introduced legislation in Congress to promote public education, the amendments provided that no school funds or benefits were expended in aid of “sectarian” (read Catholic) sects or denominations.

In 1875, Blaine’s bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives, but failed to pass the Senate. The Blaine debate moved to the states and many states adopted a similar provision. However, Missouri actually adopted a Blaine-like amendment in 1870 prior to the Blaine debate in Congress. The MCC’s Executive Director Mike Hoey wrote an article in the Missouri Historical Review that recounts the bigoted campaign that led to the adoption of the 1870 amendment. The article is in the July 1, 2001, issue of the Missouri Historical Review. Click here to access this issue and go to page 372.

Missouri courts have relied upon the 1870 amendment plus other Blaine provisions in the Missouri Constitution to deny private school children access to publicly funded buses and textbooks, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that providing this type of state support to private school children does not violate the First Amendment Establishment Clause.

Is it time for Missouri to repeal its Blaine Amendment? The MCC thinks so. What do you think?

15 thoughts on “What is a Blaine Amendment and how does it affect Catholic school parents?

  1. It is long overdue that Missouri should repeal the Blaine Amendment, as many Christians (mostly Catholics) cannot afford to send their children where they can receive a Catholic education, even thouth they are paying for education by payint their taxes. Catholic schools can indeed, and do provide a high quality education at much lower cost than public institutions. Catholics who have paid both their taxes and tuition at a private (parochial) school by rights should have received a tax rebate for these many years, as they are paying more in taxes for education than it costs for a private Catholic education.
    John Riegel

  2. Sue and Mike Carron says:

    The financial burden is unbelievable for all who have chosen Catholic schools for their children. We have 4 children and have seen significant increases in tuition through the years, our AFTER tax dollars. Yet, our tax dollars pay for everyone else’s children to receive an education.

    We wish there had been legislation passed for this 50 years ago! Retirement may never be an option for us due to the hundreds of thousands of dollars we have invested in our children’s education to give them the foundation we believe in.

    Let’s hope something finally goes through.

    Sue and Mike Carron

  3. mocatholic says:

    Thanks for joining in the conversation. We appreciate your feedback!

    — Melissa Varner, communications director for the MCC

  4. Steven Sallwasser says:

    The Blaine Amendment is contrary to the U.S. Constitution and could be challenged without having to repeal it. It should never have been enacted in the first place

  5. Ginny Schrappen says:

    Yes, I am in agreement with others. The Blaine Amendment is LONG overdue for being repealed. I am hopeful that it will be this year.

  6. Ginny Schrappen says:

    Yes, I am in agreement with the others. The Blaine Amendment is LONG overdue for being repealed. It is discriminatory and should be abolished.

  7. Rev. Frederick Elskamp says:

    For the sake of the entire state, the more good education we can foster, the better it will be for all of us. We pay taxes to support the government schools, we should have a deduction for also supporting auxiliary schools. The more good education, the better for all.

  8. Cathy L. Schloss says:

    I just wanted to express to you the importance of HB 1133. We send our children to a private school in Cape Girardeau. We plan to send them to Notre Dame High School for their preparation to college. We pay our taxes to support the public school system like all other citizens. We support the right for parents to send their children to a school of their choice. Thankfully, we have utilized the resources for one of our daughters to receive speech therapy.

    I realize it is a choice to invest in our children by sending them to a parochial school. All children are the keys to our future. I am sure that parents choosing public schools will greatly oppose this bill. I am aware that Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota all offer parents tax breaks for education-related expenses no matter what type of school their children attend. Missouri should stand up and join our Midwestern states to help parents with deductions on their taxes. Our economy is critical. Many familes continue to be unemployed. Some are even worse and homeless. Our homeless statistics is unnerving with 1 out of every 4 children without a safe place to eat, sleep, or just live. Anything that can be done to help all families in this time of financial struggle would be beneficial .

    I would also like to express my deeper concern with the possibility of amending our Constitution from “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship.” This is an unbelievable thought to ever be minutely considered. This is taking away one of our rights from our founding fathers. The initial glance at the change of a simple word from religion to worship may not seem to cause harm. Rather, it is quite the opposite. With “freedom of worship” citizens will no longer be allowed to practice any form of religious act publicly. We would only be allowed to do so within the confines of our place of worship and our homes. This is wrong…very very wrong. One of the greatest impacts would be our children would not be allowed to attend any parochial academic institution at all levels of education. Yes, that is grade school, high school and college. There are so many restrictions related to this such as no nativity and religious displays, praying in public including prayer vigils for missing people and inmates’ last moments on death row. Religious stamps, cards, jewelry and a vast of other freedoms would be restricted. Our founding fathers were reverent when forming our nation, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. They did include religion as a freedom found on our currency “In God We Trust.” I hope you strongly oppose this amendment with every ounce of your soul and spirit. I will pray for you and all of our legislatures that you make the right decision when casting your votes. You not only represent you and your family but all of the families that is in your political jurisdiction. You can make a difference to keep our freedom of religion strong and help all families with taxes in this great time of financial burdens.

  9. Brenda Carrow says:

    Repeal Blaine! Parents should be allowed to make choices concerning the education of their children on a fair playing field. No penalties or bonuses handed out to one family over another based upon the choices made of where and how to educate their own children.

  10. Glorianna L'Ecuyer says:

    I am very much in favor of children getting a good Catholic Education and applaud some of the creative solutions that the St. Louis schools have come up with to keep schools open and help families keep their children in Catholic schools. I am a retired public school teacher and I am concerned in these times when cuts are being made in public schools that religious-based schools might cause more hardship for the public schools. However, the idea of giving parents a tax deduction for a percent of the cost of educating their children in Catholic or other religious schools seems fair to me and might not cause to big a hardship on the public schools.
    I hope I haven’t offended any of the Catholic school parents who are reading my comment. This is a complicated issue and there are many things to consider.

  11. Joyce Arthur says:

    Of course, this amendment is long overdue for being repealed. Why has it taken so long? We are thankful that we had the option to send our children to grade and high schools and colleges. That option may not be available to future generations, if families are not given some financial consideration. Catholic Schools have been models of excellence; but how can they sustain that with declining enrollment because families can’t afford the tuition?

  12. Joanne says:

    It is time for all our education tax dollars to be divided among all parents who are sending a child to school. This can be on a sliding scale according to income. The money goes to any school within the state of the parents’ choice. Let all parents decide where to spend their education dollars. The money flows to the school via the families who enroll their children there. It would solve the school funding formula mess. The schools would have to attract the families by being the best fit for their children.

    Education is not a one size fits all endeavor. Adults don’t have to go to the local college but to any college where they gain acceptance. They also apply for and receive federal grants and aid from our tax dollars to attend. Let it be the same system for K through 12th grade. The state can mandate that kids are educated and the minimum standards for schools. However, the schools would have to compete for students just as colleges do. Children should not have to be compelled to go to a particular school based on location.

    This is an equitable approach. Some parents will still choose their neighborhood school while others will freely choose parochial and private schools without it being an undue financial burden.

    Furthermore, the state will stop propping up failing public schools.

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