Blaine Amendment Challenge in Limbo at the US Supreme Court
On March 04, 2017, I wrote a post about the Blaine Amendment, which was never incorporated into the US Constitution but variations of which have been adopted in 37 or 38 states.
In short, the purpose of a Blaine amendment is to restrict the use of public money in funding religious (“sectarian”) schools.
The strength of any state’s Blaine amendment depends upon the specificity and directness of the language. As noted in the March 04, 2017, post, the language of Blaine amendments in some states is so tight that there is no way to sidestep the amendment by, say, indirectly using public money to fund religious schools by giving the money to the parent first and then having the parent use the money to pay the religious school.
Interestingly, in 2011, a challenge to Colorado’s Blaine amendment, Taxpayers for Public Education vs. Douglas County School District, went all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court (June 2015) and then, a reshaped case in which petitioner became defendant, Douglas County School District vs. Taxpayers for Public Education, headed for the US Supreme Court in October 2015.
In June 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the use of public money in the form of school vouchers to pay for religious schools.
Below are some salient excerpts from the Colorado Supreme Court ruling
The Colorado Constitution features broad, unequivocal language forbidding the State from using public money to fund religious schools. Specifically, article IX, section 7—entitled “Aid to private schools, churches, sectarian purpose, forbidden”— includes the following proscriptive language:Neither the general assembly, nor any county, city, town, township, school district or other public corporation, shall ever make any appropriation, or pay from any public fund or moneys whatever, anything in aid of any church or sectarian society, or for any sectarian purpose, or to help support or sustain any school, academy, seminary, college, university or other literary or scientific institution, controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatsoever . . . . (Emphasis added.)Although this provision uses the term “sectarian” rather than “religious,” the two words are synonymous. See Black’s Law Dictionary 1557 (10th ed. 2014) (defining “sectarian” as “[o]f, relating to, or involving a particular religious sect; esp., supporting a particular religious group and its beliefs”). That section 7 twice equates the term “sectarian” with the word “church” only reinforces this point. Therefore, this stark constitutional provision makes one thing clear: A school district may not aid religious schools.Yet aiding religious schools is exactly what the CSP [Choice Scholarship Pilot Program] does. The CSP essentially functions as a recruitment program, teaming with various religious schools (i.e., the Private School Partners) and encouraging students to attend those schools via the inducement ofBlaine Amendment Challenge in Limbo at the US Supreme Court | deutsch29: