Monday, February 27, 2017

The Blaine Amendment vs. Trinity Lutheran Church: Teed up for SCOTUS

ADF Senior Counsel
Erik Stanley
Last week the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear oral arguments on April 19 in arguably the most important religious freedom case this term, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley. We have been reporting on this case since it started and this week we will have as our guest Senior Counsel Erik Stanley of the Alliance Defending Freedom to discuss the impact of this case and the future of the so-called “Little Blaine” amendments.

Trinity Lutheran Church Learning Center in Columbia sought to participate in the 2012 Playground Scrap Tire Surface Material Grant Program. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources disqualified the center solely because a church operates it. Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit narrowly upheld a district court’s decision that ruled in favor of the state.
At stake could be the future of the Little Blaine Amendments which refers to a provision in 38 of the 50 state constitutions in the United States that forbid direct government aid to educational institutions that have a religious affiliation. They were designed to prohibit aid to parochial schools, especially those operated by the Catholic Church in locations with large immigrant populations.
The Blaine Amendments get their name from former Speaker of the House James G. Blaine who proposed it as an amendment to the U. S. Constitution in 1875. When it failed several states adopted it for their states.   
James G. Blaine
“This is a critical case because, under the state’s logic, the government could deny churches access to fire services or water treatment, for example. That’s obviously not what the state or federal constitution was designed to prevent,” noted Erik Stanley, who has litigated the case since its inception. “The state admits that it blatantly excludes religious organizations from a safety program that has nothing to do with religion. That’s precisely the kind of hostility to religion that the U.S. Constitution prohibits.”
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