Recently, BYU Idaho Adjunct Professor Ruthie Robinson was dismissed from her position in Eastern Idaho. She alleges that the termination was due to a private Facebook post in which she expressed support for the LGBTQ community.
BYU Idaho, as a private entity, is completely within its right as a private club to establish whatever policies it wants, just like Spanky in the film Little Rascal’s is free to preach gender intolerance at his private “He Man ‘Womun’ Haters Club.”
However, this freedom to craft and act upon policies of intolerance precisely exposes why the so called “Blaine Amendment” continues to be a necessary and powerful protection for Idaho’s citizens and their tax dollars. The Blaine Amendment, or Article IX Section Five of Idaho’s constitution, prohibits tax dollars to be distributed to sectarian entities including schools with religious purposes.
Idaho’s public schools welcome students and staff of all races, religions, languages, disabilities and personal beliefs into the public space as equals. The Blaine Amendment protects employees and students from the possibility that tax dollars would be used to fuel and promote a religious ideology that discriminates against a citizen for their beliefs or identity, including sexual orientation and gender identity.
Wayne Hoffman, executive director for the Idaho Freedom Foundation, penned a recent Op-Ed in which he advocated for Idahoans to support the removal of the Blaine Amendment in an effort to increase school choice. Such a repeal would allow public tax dollars to be distributed directly to private religious schools.
However, such a repeal would also open the very real possibility that private religious institutions would, in turn, utilize the public tax dollars to promote religious ideology; some of which many citizens of Idaho would find discriminatory such as not allowing staff or students that identify as LGBTQ to work or attend such institutions.
It’s not just LGBTQ populations that could be targeted. Under such a repeal, publicly funded but privately managed schools could implement policies they see fit, just as they have done all along. If a private school does not want students with disabilities to attend, then they don’t have to. In contrast, public schools accept all students regardless of disability.
Private schools are a good fit for many students and their families that want their child to receive some form of a specialized education including religious studies. The separation between themselves and the public’s bank account allows for the very autonomy that many parents desire when they send their children to these schools.
Regardless of how one feels about private schools in the Gem State, the Blaine Amendment was designed to protect citizens’ hard-earned tax dollars from subsidizing the churches and religious schools in Idaho. This has the added benefit of prohibiting the use of the public’s coins to schools which are used promote intolerance to staff or students in the name of religious ideology; it ensures that all students in Idaho are treated with respect and compassion regardless of religion, race, language, soexual orientation, and gender identity.
BYU Idaho is free, as a private entity, to continue promoting whatever values its leadership feels is appropriate because the Blaine Amendment provides the freedom for such an institution to be free from the reigns of government control. However, don’t expect the public to subsidize the school to promote their version of religious ideology.
And for what it’s worth regarding BYU’s dismissal of Ruthie Robinson, I think we can all agree that the Little Rascals were much better off when the club became gender inclusive. Just a thought.
Levi B Cavener is a special education teacher living in Caldwell, Idaho. He blogs at IdahosPromise.Org.