Does A Justice Kavanaugh Mean That Blaine Amendments Are History?
Blaine Amendments are provisions in 38 state constitutions that bar public aid to religious organizations. They get their name from James G. Blaine, a congressman and later senator and presidential nominee from Maine who unsuccessfully attempted to amend the U.S. constitution in 1875 to include “anti-aid” language onto the end of the first amendment. Where he failed at the federal level, he and his ideological fellow travelers were successful at the state level. As a result, Blaine Amendments frequently act as state-level barriers against school choice.
It is important to note that while their language might look harmless in today’s light, at their inception, Blaine Amendments were designed to try and stamp out Catholic schools. Their use of the word “sect” or “sectarian” is the tell. Public schools at that time were nominally Protestant, with students singing hymns and reading the King James Bible in class. That was “nonsectarian” instruction. “Sectarian” meant Catholic. Interestingly, in the court’s recent 7-2 decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, the court ruled that states have a duty “not to base laws or regulations on hostility to a religion or religious viewpoint.” I’m no lawyer, but to me, Blaine Amendments do just that.