Missouri

Missouri

Missouri has historically interpreted its Blaine Amendment very restrictively, making tax-credit funded programs the state’s only viable educational choice option. But Missouri’s Blaine Amendment is strikingly similar to the Blaine Amendment that was at issue in Espinoza and that was declared unconstitutional when used to try to prohibit parents from choosing religious educational options as part of an educational choice program. Thus, after Espinoza, the state may no longer apply its Blaine Amendment to bar religious options from publicly funded educational choice programs, such as voucher or education savings account programs. The Espinoza decision provides a broad range of educational choice options for Missouri policymakers.

Constitutional Provisions
Compelled Support Clause
“That no person can be compelled to erect, support or attend any place or system of worship, or to maintain or support any priest, minister, preacher or teacher of any sect, church, creed or denomination of religion; but if any person shall voluntarily make a contract for any such object, he shall be held to the performance of the same.” Missouri Const. Art. I, § 6.

Blaine Amendments
“That no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion, or in aid of any priest, preacher, minister or teacher thereof, as such; and that no preference shall be given to nor any discrimination made against any church, sect or creed of religion, or any form of religious faith or worship.” Missouri Const. Art. I, § 7.

“Neither the general assembly, nor any county, city, town, township, school district or other municipal corporation, shall ever make an appropriation or pay from any public fund whatever, anything in aid of any religious creed, church or sectarian purpose, or to help to support or sustain any private or public school, academy, seminary, college, university, or other institution of learning controlled by any religious creed, church or sectarian denomination whatever; nor shall any grant or donation of personal property or real estate ever be made by the state, or any county, city, town, or other municipal corporation, for any religious creed, church,
or sectarian purpose whatever.” Missouri Const. Art. IX, § 8.

Education Article
“The proceeds of all certificates of indebtedness due the state school fund, and all moneys, bonds, lands, and other property belonging to or donated to any state fund for public school purposes, and the net proceeds of all sales of lands and other property and effects that may accrue to the state by escheat, shall be paid into the state treasury, and securely invested under the supervision of the state board of education, and sacredly preserved as a public school fund the annual income of which shall be faithfully appropriated for establishing and maintaining free public schools, and for no other uses or purposes whatsoever.” Missouri Const. Art. IX, § 5.

Relevant Case Law
Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, 137 S. Ct. 2012 (2017)
Trinity Lutheran Church sued the state for violation of its federal constitutional rights under the Free Exercise Clause, the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause after the state relied upon its Blaine Amendment in order to deny the church a grant to resurface its playground. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its favor, holding that denying a generally available public benefit solely based on religious status violates the First Amendment.

Widmar v. Vincent, 454 U.S. 263 (1981)
The U.S. Supreme Court held that the state’s Blaine Amendments and Compelled Support Clauses cannot justify a state university’s policy denying religiously affiliated student groups the right to meet in university buildings.

Barrera v. Wheeler, 531 F.2d 402 (8th Cir. 1976)
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that children attending non-public schools in Missouri are entitled to receive federal funds for remedial education programs comparable in quality, scope and opportunity to children in public schools, notwithstanding the Missouri Blaine Amendments.

Felter v. Cape Girardeau School District, 810 F. Supp. 1062 (D. Mo. 1993)
A federal district court held that using public funds to provide transportation for a disabled student from parochial to public school does not violate the Establishment Clause of either the U.S. Constitution or the Missouri Constitution.

Luetkemeyer v. Kaufmann, 364 F. Supp. 376 (D. Mo. 1973), aff’d by mem. op ., 419 U.S. 888 (1974)
A three-judge federal district court held that the state’s refusal to provide school bus transportation to religious school pupils did not violate the students’ equal protection rights because the decision was not irrational.

Brusca v. Missouri, 332 F. Supp. 275 (D. Mo. 1971), aff’d, 405 U.S. 1050 (1972)
A federal district court held that a parent’s right to choose a religious private school for his children did not mean that the state was compelled to finance his child’s private school education, nor did he have a constitutional right to any credit for his taxes which supported the public schools simply because he would not or could not make use of them.

Americans United v. Rogers, 538 S.W.2d 711 (Mo. 1976)
The Missouri Supreme Court held that publicly funded higher education grants do not violate the Missouri Constitution because the public purpose of the statute, promoting higher education, overrides any incidental benefit to a private individual or private college.

Mallory v. Barrera, 544 S.W.2d 556 (Mo. 1976)
The Missouri Supreme Court held that use of any part of federal Title I education funds by the state to provide remedial education to elementary and secondary school children on the premises of parochial schools violates the Blaine Amendments of the Missouri Constitution.

Paster v. Tussey, 512 S.W.2d 97 (Mo. 1974)
The Missouri Supreme Court held that requiring public school boards to provide textbooks to teachers in private schools violates the Compelled Support Clause of the Missouri Constitution, while requiring textbooks to be provided to pupils attending private schools violates a Blaine Amendment (Article IX, Section 8).

McDonough v. Aylward, 500 S.W.2d 721 (Mo. 1973)
The Missouri Supreme Court held that being required to pay taxes does not interfere with parents’ constitutional right to send their children to religiously oriented schools.

Special District for Education & Training of Handicapped Children v. Wheeler, 408 S.W.2d 60 (Mo. 1966); see also Harfst v. Hoegen, 163 S.W.2d 609, 614 (Mo. 1942)
The Missouri Supreme Court held that the state may not use public school funds to send public school speech teachers into the parochial schools to provide speech therapy.

Berghorn v. Reorganized School District, 260 S.W.2d 573 (Mo. 1953)
The Missouri Supreme Court held that schools taught by Catholic nuns are not free public schools and therefore may not receive public funds.

McVey v. Hawkins, 258 S.W.2d 927 (Mo. 1953)
The Missouri Supreme Court held that use of state and school district funds for transportation of parochial school students violated one of Missouri’s education provisions (Article IX, Section 5), which required that all funds earmarked for public schools be used to maintain free public schools and for no other purposes.

Existing Private School Choice Programs
Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program
Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 135.712 through 135.716; 135.719

What You've Heard About Blaine Amendments

Blaine Amendments are controversial state constitutional provisions rooted in 19th century anti-Catholic bigotry. Their original purpose was to prevent the government from funding Catholic schools while preserving funding for America’s nascent “common” schools, which were predominantly Protestant and often inhospitable to Catholics. For decades, opponents of educational choice have employed Blaine Amendments—found in 37 state constitutions—as blunt weapons to impede and invalidate educational choice programs. However, thanks to a decades-long legal strategy tenaciously pursued by IJ, these state constitutional obstacles to educational freedom are now largely a dead letter.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2002, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, that the federal Constitution allows states to empower parents to choose religious and nonreligious schools alike when participating in educational choice programs so long as the state remains religiously neutral and parents exercise true private choice. But Zelman left open the question of whether the constitution would permit a state to exclude religious options from an educational choice program. On June 30, 2020, in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Court answered that open question and held that the federal Constitution forbids states from excluding religious schools as options for families participating in educational choice programs, including through Blaine Amendments.

The federal Constitution, wrote Chief Justice Roberts for the Espinoza majority, “condemns discrimination against religious schools and the families whose children attend them. They are members of the community too, and their exclusion from [Montana’s] scholarship program here is odious to our Constitution and cannot stand.” The Supreme Court’s holding was clear and unambiguous—and it applies to every state: While a “State need not subsidize private education[,] . . . once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

As a result of Espinoza, nearly every state is free to enact programs that will empower parents to choose the educational environment that is best for their own children. Of course, each state has a unique history, context, and constitutional provisions. That is why IJ has produced this 50-state guide. The guide analyzes each state’s constitution in light of Espinoza and explains how the ruling impacts policymakers’ ability to enact educational choice programs.

What You Need to Know After Espinoza

Blaine Amendments are controversial state constitutional provisions rooted in 19th century anti-Catholic bigotry. Their original purpose was to prevent the government from funding Catholic schools while preserving funding for America’s nascent “common” schools, which were predominantly Protestant and often inhospitable to Catholics. For decades, opponents of educational choice have employed Blaine Amendments—found in 37 state constitutions—as blunt weapons to impede and invalidate educational choice programs. However, thanks to a decades-long legal strategy tenaciously pursued by IJ, these state constitutional obstacles to educational freedom are now largely a dead letter.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2002, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, that the federal Constitution allows states to empower parents to choose religious and nonreligious schools alike when participating in educational choice programs so long as the state remains religiously neutral and parents exercise true private choice. But Zelman left open the question of whether the constitution would permit a state to exclude religious options from an educational choice program. On June 30, 2020, in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Court answered that open question and held that the federal Constitution forbids states from excluding religious schools as options for families participating in educational choice programs, including through Blaine Amendments.

The federal Constitution, wrote Chief Justice Roberts for the Espinoza majority, “condemns discrimination against religious schools and the families whose children attend them. They are members of the community too, and their exclusion from [Montana’s] scholarship program here is odious to our Constitution and cannot stand.” The Supreme Court’s holding was clear and unambiguous—and it applies to every state: While a “State need not subsidize private education[,] . . . once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

As a result of Espinoza, nearly every state is free to enact programs that will empower parents to choose the educational environment that is best for their own children. Of course, each state has a unique history, context, and constitutional provisions. That is why IJ has produced this 50-state guide. The guide analyzes each state’s constitution in light of Espinoza and explains how the ruling impacts policymakers’ ability to enact educational choice programs.

Select Your State

Program Status
All Educational Choice Programs
Only Tax Credit and ESA Programs
Educational Choice Programs Unavailable

For More Information

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