Becket Fund Challenges Arizona’s “Blaine Amendment” in State Supreme Court

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed an amicus brief in a case argued before the Arizona Supreme Court [Dec. 9], Cain v. Horne, where the constitutionality of two state school voucher programs is at stake. 

In May, the lower court applied  of the Arizona Constitution (Article IX, Section 10) to strike down two voucher programs, one offering scholarships to students with disabilities, and another offering scholarships to children in foster care.  According to the lower court, because the voucher programs allowed students to select the school of their choice (including religious schools), “sectarian” schools were benefited in violation of Article IX, Section 10.

The Becket amicus brief explains that Article IX, Section 10 is actually a “Blaine Amendment” — one of about 35 state constitutional amendments passed in the late 19th and early 20th century out of hostility to immigrants (especially Catholics) and their “sectarian” schools.  The Becket Fund’s brief argued that if Arizona’s Blaine Amendment were applied today according to its original nativist purpose, it would violate the federal constitution.

“At least seven Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court and every historian worth his salt has acknowledged the bigotry behind the Blaine Amendments, and that they used the term ‘sectarian’ as code for ‘Catholic,’” explained Eric Rassbach, the Becket Fund’s National Litigation Director. “It is a clear violation of Supreme Court precedent to enforce an anti-Catholic law against Catholic and other religious schools today.”

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a nonpartisan, interfaith, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions, and the equal participation of religious people in public life and benefits. For years, The Becket Fund has been actively involved in litigation challenging state “Blaine Amendments” as vestiges of nativist bigotry that violate the federal constitution. The Becket Fund also maintains a website dedicated exclusively to the history and current effects of Blaine Amendments (http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001_gKAo6BZnOGfDuJ1HcU9ZoayS_uBBZvsW-pZ5HrWG3n3zMkFG70ferKVFsseOBZX8BtNco_bP1DA2cYHtRBMaIy-c35lvfruHYyNq9QV6EUDy9ohCZC7dYlHkjXnWGUN).
Read the amicus brief here.

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