For many years, Pioneer Institute has been a leader in the effort to repeal the Blaine Amendments, legal barriers in Massachusetts and nearly 40 other states that prevent more underprivileged schoolchildren from being able to attend religiously affiliated schools.
Now, nationally syndicated columnist George Will is lending his powerful voice to this important cause with a Washington Post op-ed calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to repeal these harmful amendments. In his column, Will echoes points Pioneer has raised many times over the years (most recently in The Daily Caller), exposing the ugly roots of opposition to school choice: 19th-century anti-Catholic bigotry promoted by the Know-Nothing Party and later in that century by corrupt GOP leader, James Blaine, “the continental liar from the state of Maine.”
The sad legacy of the Blaine Amendments today is the struggle of millions of parents to cover tuition costs to send their children to non-public schools better suited to their individual needs. A tuition tax credit scholarship program that would have helped parents like Kendra Espinoza, a single mom in Montana, was shut down by the Montana Department of Revenue and the state Supreme Court, citing the Blaine Amendment.
The U.S. Supreme Court is now deciding whether or not to hear petitioner Kendra Espinoza’s appeal, and Pioneer recently filed an amicus brief in support of her case. As Pioneer executive director Jim Stergios said, “Kendra Espinoza, like so many other parents, sought the education that best suits the needs of her children. It is hard to believe that an amendment steeped in anti-Catholic bias still stands in her way 130 years after its passage.” The Court is expected to announce whether it will hear the case in early summer.
Kendra Espinoza and her two daughters
Photo credit: Institute for Justice
Closer to home, Massachusetts has the oldest Blaine Amendments, thanks to the anti-Catholic Know-Nothing Party, which arose in response to a spike in Catholic immigration during the Irish Potato Famine. Pioneer Institute has published numerous reports and op-eds, held public forums, and made countless media appearances calling for their repeal. In 2018, Pioneer produced a documentary, “Big Sacrifices, Big Dreams: Ending America’s Bigoted Education Laws,” that chronicles the struggles of four families from Massachusetts (in Framingham and Fall River), Michigan, and Georgia, all states with Blaine Amendments, to send their children to parochial schools. View the film here:
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Watch: Pioneer’s Jamie Gass Presents History of Blaine Amendments at Heartland Institute – National School Choice Week 2017