Education is integral to developing wisdom and knowledge in young adults. The Bible recognized this centuries ago, saying:
“How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver” (Proverbs 16:16).
The Supreme Court recently heard arguments on Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a case surrounding a controversial amendment to the Montana constitution (called a Blaine Amendment), which prohibits state student aid programs from applying to students who choose an education in a religious school.
That amendment forbids…any public fund… to aid any…school [or] academy…controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.
It was federal Congressman James G. Blaine who proposed this language for a federal constitutional amendment in the late 1870s. Virtually all education at that time included religious instruction and principles, but he introduced the amendment to specifically exclude Catholic education. The federal proposal failed, but 37 states (including Montana) placed the Blaine Amendment into their state constitutions (anti-Catholicism was strong in many regions after the Civil War). Today, the amendment has been wrongly interpreted as being anti-religious—a position that would have been almost universally rejected at the time it was proposed.
As public education has produced steadily worsening academic results (not to mention increasingly immoral and disruptive behavior) over recent years, several states have instituted school choice programs to allow low-income parents and at-risk students to choose the best education available for their children. Although private and religious schools routinely produce higher academic test scores and are substantially safer for students than other options, state Blaine Amendments prevent students from having access to these benefits solely because the schools are often religious.
The value of a good education cannot be effectively calculated over the course of one’s life. To deny parents scholarships providing the best education for their kids simply because of the presence of religious faith is not only unconstitutional but it also demonstrates the hostility that many in our government has developed toward the devout.
Defenders of the Blaine Amendment claim their position is supported by the so-called “separation of church and state,” but that concept never meant denying religious people the use of the same government services that the non-religious are able to access. To the contrary, the First Amendment was solely about preventing the government from establishing a national religion or forcing people to hold specific religious beliefs.
The Blaine Amendment is anti-freedom, anti-religious, and needs to be overturned by the Supreme Court.