BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Bible, the School, and the Constitution’
Named after its sponsor, Rep. James G. Blaine, Maine Republican, the Blaine Amendment would have amended the Constitution to bar any direct government funding to religious schools. The effort narrowly failed after a contentious debate. But it set a tone for constitutional developments for decades to come.
The Blaine Amendment inspired many states to enact laws that limited or outlawed government funding of religious groups, and no-funding provisions gradually began appearing in state constitutions. Courts in recent years have cited these provisions in striking down voucher plans that include private religious schools.
Hostility to faith in public schools has been taken to such extremes that in my hundreds of talks to public school children across the country, I have found that most aren’t even taught one of the founding principles of our nation - that our liberty comes from God.
The events surrounding the School Question did not settle the issue of Bible reading or religious instruction in the public education system. It took decades for Bible reading to be eliminated entirely as the secularization of American public education became complete.
But, as the author writes, the events of the 19th century had a “commanding impact” on modern church-state doctrine. Mr. Green’s book is a thorough and engaging account of, as he writes, “the transformative era in American church-state law, the one in which America ceased to be a Republic of the Bible.”
Former Undersecretary of Education Gary Bauer is president of American Values and chairman of Campaign for Working Families.