June 27, 2017
June 27, 2017
The Trinity Lutheran revolution
By Frank Friday
The SCOTUS decision on the President's Travel Ban is getting the most attention this week, but more consequential will be the decisive 7-2 opinion in the Trinity Lutheran case, overturning the so-called "Blaine amendmentâ€ in the Missouri state constitution. Blaine provisions of the 1870s and 1880s were aimed at denying religious schools any form of government assistance, but specifically allowed help for private secular schools. (The help in question in this case was the relatively trivial matter of free playground rubber pellets, but the principle now applies across the board to many forms of assistance.)
Such blatantly discriminatory laws were targeted at the burgeoning parochial schools in the United States begun after the Civil War, owing to the efforts of the large number of Catholic immigrants at the time, often German, as well as German Lutherans in the Midwest, who were keen to have their children educated in the native tongue.
The Blaine movement was the cynical creation of Republican politician James G. Blaine to rally nativist and secularist support for his presidential hopes. Blaine himself seems to have eventually had second thoughts about this and President McKinley eventually returned the GOP to the much friendlier posture of the Lincoln era regarding immigrants and Catholics. But the bad laws were left in the books and we have had an 80-year battle in the Supreme Court since Everson to have religious schools treated fairly under the federal and state constitutions. Well over half the states still have some sort of Blaine provision. NOTE FR
A NOTE FROM TIM:
This decision was based on a rather strange case. Trinity sued because they were denied cut up tires, yes, tires, from the State of Missouri. Someone came up with a way to cut up old car tires and turn them into a spongy material to be used instead of gravel on children's playgrounds, and the state was giving it away free to primary-grade schools - but not religious schools. Why not? Old tires are a blight on the landscape, a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other disease-bearing creatures, and they can either be burned - polluting the atmosphere - or cut up in this fashion. Missouri has been doing the latter, giving the material away free to schools and likely anyone else who will take it. But Blaine wouldn't allow the state to give it to religious schools. The Lutherans sued.
Winning a bunch of cut up tires seems like something of a booby prize, like getting the goat and cage on Let's Make a Deal, but it sets a fundamental principle; government may not discriminate against an entity based on religion. In an era when we are told we cannot discriminate against foreign Muslims it is the height of hypocrisy to discriminate against Christian schoolchildren. The Court has ruled that we can't.
But Liberals hate Christianity and we can expect a series of nasty fights over this as the Left attempts to stop the many dominoes from falling.
What is MY take on this? I don't think governments should be funding any such programs by and large (and if they do it should be local and not state) but if they are going to do it (and getting rid of old tires can be argued as a government matter as they are nearly indestructible things and hurt the environment) then there should be no discrimination. IF any private school gets it all should share.
At any rate, this marks a potentially fundamental shift in policy, one where the government will not be at the service of secular humanism and the assault on religion. No doubt the "Freedom from Religion" groups suffered collective aneurisms.
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