U.S. Supreme Court hears Blaine Amendment case Wednesday

A Missouri court case on the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket could reverberate in Idaho.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday centering on the so-called “Blaine Amendment,” which prohibits using public money to support religious entities. Idaho has a version of the Blaine Amendment in the Constitution.

Here’s the skinny on the case before the Supreme Court, from SCOTUSblog. (Click here for a much more detailed overview.) In 2012, the Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Mo., looked to spruce up its playground. The church applied to a state program that reimburses nonprofits that install rubber playground surfaces made with recycled tires. The state turned down the church’s application, citing its Blaine Amendment.

Advocates on both sides of the issue say the Supreme Court’s ruling could have far-reaching implications for religious schools, from coast to coast. Thirty-seven states have some version of a Blaine Amendment on the books, according to a white paper co-authored by the Institute for Justice and the American Legislative Exchange Council, two groups squarely on the side of school choice.

The Institute for Justice has filed a court brief supporting Trinity Lutheran Church. Eighteen states have also filed a brief supporting the church; Idaho is not among them.

The debate over Idaho’s Blaine Amendment flared up briefly during the 2016 legislative session.

A proposal to tweak Idaho’s amendment stalled in a House committee. Critics argued that the proposed amendment would open the door to a school voucher system. The proposal’s sponsor, Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, said the language would protect students who use state scholarships to attend religious-based colleges — but he later said the proposal would also apply to the voucher debate.

Here’s more about Wednesday’s hearing from Education Week.




Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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