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?