NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Vouchers Lose An Early Round In Florida

August 7, 2002

Defeated by last month's U.S. Supreme Court decision approving the use of publicly funded school vouchers for religious schools, voucher opponents have moved their battle to state courts. Many state constitutions contain provisions that specifically bar tax dollars from going to religious schools.

Opponents won an early round in Florida when a judge there found the language of the so-called Blaine amendment in the state's constitution "clear and unambiguous."

  • The amendment, named after 19th century Sen. James Blaine (R-Maine), states that "No revenue of the state ... shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly in aid of any church, sect or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution."
  • The amendment was directed at Catholic schools and Blaine originally intended it to be included in the U.S. Constitution -- but when those efforts failed, it was adopted by 29 states by 1890.
  • Today, every state -- with the exception of Maine, Louisiana and North Carolina -- has Blaine language or its equivalent still on the books.
  • Some state courts have taken the language literally -- but others have not.

Last month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said a Washington state scholarship program that blocked students from using the money to attend sectarian colleges "facially discriminates on the basis of religion." School choice programs have also survived similar Blaine challenges in Arizona and Wisconsin.

Legal experts predict the matter will eventually make its way to the Supreme Court.

Source: Editorial, "The New Voucher Battleground," Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2002.


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