Freedom of Religion: Locke v. Davey and State Blaine Amendments

By Douglas F. Johnson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
BLAINE AMENDMENTS
APPROACH THE SUPREME
COURT

The Supreme Court ruling in Locke defined an interesting pair of precedents. First, this ruling seems to accept the argument that Blaine Amendments are expressions of anti-Catholic bias and are, therefore, unconstitutional. However, whether or not a particular state “Blaine Amendment” will pass Court scrutiny is not yet clearly defined because on the Locke ruling the Court found no anti-Catholic history behind Article I, Section 11 of the Washington Constitution the Court and therefore determined that the Washington clause is not a “Blaine Amendment.” Therefore, a state clause would appear to qualify as a “Blaine Amendment” only if anti-Catholic intent can be documented.

Second, it is clear from this ruling that many state constitutional clauses affecting the flow of tax dollars to religious programs and institutions will be affected by the declaration that some limitations on such flow will fall into the “play in the joints” between the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the United States Constitution. Therefore, state legislators, courts, and educational policy makers will need to understand the implications of Blaine Amendment history in light of the Locke decision in order to develop funding programs that will meet the test of constitutionality.

As is true for any historical event or movement, the effort by James G. Blaine to amend the United States Constitution did not occur in a vacuum, but was influenced by numerous causes and currents of the late Nineteenth Century. Many of these issues arose largely in the mid to late 1800s in response to bitter strife between an established

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