In the 1840s, nativist movement leaders formed official political parties and local chapters of the national Native American Party (later the American Party), although they continued to be commonly known as the Know-Nothing Party. Politicians sought to insert provisions into state constitutions against Catholics who refused to renounce the pope. The Know-Nothing movement brought bigotry and hatred to a new level of violence and organization.
The party’s legacy endured in the post-Civil War era, with laws and constitutional amendments it supported, still today severely limiting parents’ educational choices. A federal constitutional amendment was proposed by Speaker of the House James Blaine prohibiting money raised by taxation in any State to 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. These were then named the Blaine Amendments of 1875.
in recent decades, often in response to challenges to school choice programs, the U.S. Supreme Court has demonstrated great interest in examining the issues of educational alternatives and attempts limit parental options. Massachusetts plays a key role in this debate. The Bay State was a key center of the Know-Nothing movement and has the oldest version of Anti-Aid Amendments in the nation, as well as a second such amendment approved in 1917. Two-fifths of Massachusetts residents are Catholic, and its Catholic schools outperform the state’s public schools, which are the best in the nation.