Article 1, Section 3 FLORIDA CONSTITUTION
THE BLAINE AMENDMENT OR “No-Aid Clause”
The Blaine Amendment refers to the constitutional amendment proposed on December 14, 1875 by Rep. James G. Blaine (1830-1893) of Maine in reaction to efforts by religious groups to establish parochial schools with public funding. President Ulysses S. Grant had suggested, in his final annual address to the United States Congress in December of 1875, that an amendment be proposed “making it the duty of each of the several States to establish and forever maintain free public schools adequate to the education of all of the children” and “prohibiting the granting of any school funds, or school taxes . . . for the benefit of or in aid . . . of any religious sect or denomination.”
The text of the proposed amendment read:
No State shall make any law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; and no money raised by taxation in any State, for the support of public schools, or derived from any public fund therefor, nor any public lands devoted thereto, shall ever be under the control of any religious sect, nor shall any money so raised, or lands so devoted be divided between religious sects or denominations.
On August 4, 1876, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the amendment with 180 votes in favor, 7 votes opposed. The amendment, however, did not receive the necessary two-thirds vote in the U.S. Senate, with only 28 votes in favor and 16 votes opposed. Nevertheless, the language and substance of the Blaine Amendment was incorporated into many state constitutions, especially in the West after Congress made it a pre-condition for admission into the Union in 1876. Eventually 37 states came to have such amendments forbidding public funds from being used for sectarian schools. These amendments have been cited repeatedly in opposition to school vouchers, on the grounds that public funds should not be used to pay for education in religious schools.
Blaine Amendment and School Vouchers
As more states consider issuing vouchers that parents may use to pay private school tuition, prohibitions against funding for religious schools will become increasingly debated. As a precursor of what we might expect, Florida voters rejected a constitutional repeal of its Blaine Amendment prohibiting funding for religious schools in 2012. The rejected measure was an attempt to overcome a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision (Opportunity Scholarships- Bush v. Holmes) finding that the state's voucher program, which allowed parents to use state-issued vouchers to pay private religious school tuition, was unconstitutional.
The legal tension between these two important and noble interests -- providing parents with school choice and preventing state governments from favoring any one religion -- will continue to be a source of debate and new legislation, as states decide whether to repeal their Blaine Amendments to allow funding for religiously-affiliated schools.
What’s behind the effort in Florida to eliminate the state’s Blaine Amendment?
In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court held in Bush v. Holmes that Gov. Jeb Bush’s voucher program violated the state constitution.
Amendment 8, also known as the Florida Religious Freedom Amendment, was on the November 6, 2012, state ballot in Florida as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, where it was defeated. The proposed measure would have prevented individuals from being barred from participating in public programs if they choose to use public funds at a religious provider. Essentially, the measure moved to repeal the state's ban of public dollars for religious funding, also known as the "Blaine Amendment."
The measure required 60 percent voter approval for adoption. The measure first appeared as Amendment 7, but on December 14, 2011, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled that the legislatively-proposed measure would no longer be on the 2012 ballot. However, a new state law which was not overturned by the lawsuit allows the Florida Attorney General to rewrite the proposal. This must have been done within 10 days, according to that law, which it was. Read more about the lawsuit here.
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution providing that no individual or entity may be denied, on the basis of religious identity or belief, governmental benefits, funding, or other support, except as required by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and deleting the prohibition against using revenues from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.
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