- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Wednesday on a 130-year-old law that was designed to keep federal funds from Catholic schools.

Three low-income mothers are challenging a decision by the Montana Department of Revenue to bar public scholarship funds for tuition at a Christian school in accordance with the state’s 1889 Blaine Amendment, which denies taxpayer dollars for schools operated by a “church, sect, or denomination.”

“One of the major implications [of Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue] is the court could address the constitutionality of Blaine Amendments,” said Diana Verm, counsel for Becket, a nonprofit law firm that has filed a friend-of-the-court brief. “Their sole purpose was to target Catholics by excluding their influence from the predominantly Protestant public schools.”

As many as 40 states have enacted so-called Blaine Amendments, which originally emerged as a mostly anti-Catholic reaction to massive immigration from Catholic-majority countries like Italy and Ireland in the 19th and early 20th centuries, historians say. At that time many public schools were tacitly Protestant, requiring students to pray and read from the King James Bible.

The amendments are named for Maine Rep. James G. Blaine, who failed in his attempt to get a similar measure added to the U.S. Constitution.

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