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Blaine Amendment

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Rep. James G. Blaine (1830-1893) of Maine

The Blaine Amendment refers to the constitutional amendment proposed on December 14, 1875 by Rep. James G. Blaine (1830-1893) of Maine in reaction to efforts by religious groups, mainly the Catholic Church, to establish parochial schools with public funding. President Ulysses S. Grant had suggested, in his final annual address to the United States Congress in December of 1875, that an amendment be proposed “making it the duty of each of the several States to establish and forever maintain free public schools adequate to the education of all of the children” and “prohibiting the granting of any school funds, or school taxes . . . for the benefit of or in aid . . . of any religious sect or denomination.”[1]

The text of the proposed amendment read:

No State shall make any law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; and no money raised by taxation in any State, for the support of public schools, or derived from any public fund therefor, nor any public lands devoted thereto, shall ever be under the control of any religious sect, nor shall any money so raised, or lands so devoted be divided between religious sects or denominations.

Source: 44 Cong. Rec. __ (December 14, 1875). Amendment, Congressional Record, 44th Congress, 1st session, 14 December, 1875.[2][3]

On August 4, 1876, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the amendment with 180 votes in favor, 7 votes opposed. The amendment, however, did not receive the necessary two-thirds vote in the U.S. Senate, with only 28 votes in favor and 16 votes opposed. Nevertheless, the language and substance of the Blaine Amendment was incorporated into many state constitutions, especially in the West after Congress made it a pre-condition for admission into the Union in 1876. Eventually 37 states came to have such amendments forbidding public funds from being used for sectarian schools. Some scholars consider these "Blaine amendments" unconstitutional because they require government to discriminate against religious groups. These amendments have been cited repeatedly in opposition to school vouchers, on the grounds that public funds should not be used to pay for education in religious schools. More recently, there have been challenges in the courts and at the ballot box regarding the provisions of these amendments, mainly in support of expanded school choice and voucher programs.[4] [5]

See also

External Links

Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress, "Blaine, James Gillespie."