Friday, March 14, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is scheduled to present oral argument in St. Louis, MO, in support of Dan and Amy Pucket and their two children who were kicked off of Hot Springs, South Dakota school buses because they attended a religious school.
"The Supreme Court has said that the Blaine Amendments were 'born of bigotry' and should be 'buried now.' It's time for the states to get out their shovels and start digging. It is unconscionable that governments are still enforcing discriminatory nineteenth century laws against people of faith," said Roger Severino, legal counsel at the Becket Fund.
Severino will be presenting the argument for the Puckets before the federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Washington-based Becket Fund is a public interest law firm protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. It is nonprofit, nonpartisan, and interfaith.
The case of Pucket v. Rounds concerns the right of the Pucket children to be bused from their rural home to a Lutheran elementary school. The state refused citing South Dakota's Blaine Amendments. The Blaine Amendments were passed at the height of nativist anti-Catholic agitation in the 1880s and are used today to bar religiously-affiliated organizations of all sorts from receiving any form of government aid in South Dakota, and dozens of other states.
Blaine Amendments are named for James G. Blaine of Maine, a powerful and popular politician who nearly became president. As senator, Blaine proposed a federal constitutional amendment in 1875 that would have banned taxpayer support for Catholicschools, while preserving the right to fund Protestant worship in public schools. After that measure failed, individual states, including South Dakota, adopted their own Blaine Amendments, often as a requirement to gain statehood.
This is a precedent-setting legal battle that extends far beyond busing. Pucket v. Rounds exposes how laws specifically created out of the religious bigotry of the 19th Century are still in use today.