Blaine Amendments

Blaine Amendments are controversial state constitutional provisions rooted in 19th century anti-Catholic bigotry. Their purpose was to prevent the government from funding Catholic schools. Today, opponents of educational choice employ Blaine Amendments—found in 37 state constitutions—as blunt weapons with which they attempt to block modern educational choice programs. However, IJ is pursuing a legal strategy to eliminate these obstacles to educational freedom. This opportunity arises from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last summer in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer. In that case, the Court stated that excluding qualified institutions—like schools—from public benefit programs solely because of their religious affiliation is “odious to our Constitution . . . and cannot stand.” IJ believes this opinion is a death sentence to Blaine Amendments, which have been invoked by teachers’ unions and their allies for decades to try and prevent choice programs from spreading and generating widespread reform. IJ’s cases in Washington State, Maine, and Montana are designed to drive our arguments up to the U.S. Supreme Court and to vindicate the right of all parents to access meaningful educational options.

Currently Active Cases:
Maine School Choice III
Montana School Choice
Washington Work Study

Two New Lawsuits Seek to Stop Discrimination Against Religion
This Wall Street Journal op-ed explains IJ’s ambitious strategy to utilize the U.S. Supreme Court’s Trinity Lutheran decision to dismantle state Blaine Amendments. If successful, our strategy will open the floodgates to educational opportunity in 14 states where educational choice programs have previously been hampered.

Blaine Amendment Map

The notorious Blaine Amendments—found in 37 state constitutions—were created to block Catholic demands for equal treatment of their schools. The anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic provisions aimed to bar public funding of so-called “sectarian”—understood to mean Catholic—schools or institutions. Since then, many state courts in interpreting their Blaine Amendments have allowed parents to select religious educational options for their children using some form of state assistance.  Almost as many, however, restricted such options.  The remainder provided mixed interpretations or have not interpreted their Blaine Amendments.

Frequently Asked Questions about Blaine Amendments

Report: School Choice & State Constitutions

School Choice & State Constitutions: A Guide to Designing School Choice Programs is the first comprehensive 50-state guide that examines how school choice programs can be created in almost every state to satisfy both constitutional and other legal concerns.

Other Resources

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