Loading
19th Century anti-Catholic laws hampering voucher programs

.- During the 19th and 20th centuries U.S. culture was largely Protestant and thus resistant to Catholic beliefs and culture. This atmosphere allowed that passage of many state laws that were, in fact, "anti-Catholic" measures. These same measures are now preventing states from enacting school voucher programs that would help parents pay for private schools, according to testimony delivered Friday to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Thirty-five states have amendments prohibiting state funding of "sectarian" schools. They are often called "Blaine Amendments," a reference to U.S. Rep. James Blaine, who in 1875 led an unsuccessful effort to add the amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The original effect of the amendments was to prohibit funding of Catholic schools that were established as an alternative to the non-denominational Protestant education being offered in the early public school system. As religion was gradually pushed out of public schools, the amendments came to be applied more broadly, prohibiting funding of any religious school.

The amendments now pose a major hurdle for proponents of school choice who believe religious schools offer better educational opportunities for poor families who could not afford private tuition without government vouchers.

Anthony Picarello, vice president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that Blaine Amendments are "the last constitutional weapon available to attack democratically enacted, religion-neutral school voucher programs or social service programs that contract with faith-based providers."

Opponents of school choice have tried to overturn voucher programs under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which requires Congress to "make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

The Supreme Court, however, ruled, first in Mitchell v. Helms (2000) and then again in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002), that programs allowing parents to choose religious schools from among a pool of private and charter schools does not violate the First Amendment.

Richard Komer, a senior litigation attorney at the libertarian Institute for Justice, testified that "as long as we persist in funding the vast majority of our children's educations through the existing public school model, this hideously expensive failure will continue."

He pointed to successful school voucher programs like the one in Milwaukee, Wis., established in 1995. Komer said the system has increased student performance and has challenged the public schools to provide better education due to the competition with private schools.

Others argued that Blaine Amendments serve an important purpose of keeping a "wall of separation" between church and state and said they wouldn't sacrifice that principle to fix problems with the education system.

"I don't think I should have to pay for the education of divinity students or programs which subsidize religion-based schools," American Atheists President Ellen Johnson said. "I do not believe that any American should be compelled to finance, directly or indirectly, religious schools, which are simply extensions of churches," Johnson went on to say.

She added that she would not sacrifice the principle of separation of church and state for improvements in the public education system. "I am not willing to sacrifice the one for the other," she said.


Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis visits poor neighborhood and meets with young people from Argentina
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
Denver rally draws hundreds in support of religious freedom
Pope Francis prays over a sick man in St Peter's Square
Denver women's clinic will offer natural, Catholic care
Interview Clips: Barbara Nicolosi speaks to CNA
US Cardinals press conference at North American College
Pope Benedict to retire to monastery inside Vatican City
Pope cites waning strength as reason for resignation
Hundreds convene in Denver to urge respect for life
New Orange bishop encourages Catholic unity in diversity
Chinese pro-life activist calls for reform, international attention
At Lincoln installation, Bishop Conley says holiness is success
Mother Cabrini shrine reopens in Chicago after a decade
Ordination of 33 deacons fills St. Peter's with joy
Cardinal says "Charity is the mother of all the virtues"
Augustine Institute expands evangelization effort with new campus
Bishops recall 'Way of St. James' as chance to trust in God
Los Angeles cathedral's newest chapel houses Guadalupe relic
Apr
23

Liturgical Calendar

April 23, 2014

Wednesday within the Octa ve of Easter

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 28:8-15

Gospel
Date
04/22/14
04/21/14
04/20/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Acts 3:1-10
Gospel:: Lk 24:13-35

Saint of the Day

St. Adalbert of Prague »

Saint
Date
04/21/14
04/20/14

Homily of the Day

Mt 28:8-15

Homily
Date
04/22/14
04/21/14
04/20/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: