Catholic schools advocate and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) recently introduced a House resolution honoring the outstanding work of Catholic schools across the country, and told The Cardinal Newman Society that he supports getting rid of the discriminatory Blaine Amendments found in many state constitutions that keep families from using public funds to choose a Catholic education.
“I certainly think the Blaine Amendments historically were anti-Catholic amendments. Certainly the namesake, Blaine, was back in the late 19th century playing on nativist sentiments and anti-Catholic sentiments in the country, and I think it would be good to get rid of these amendments on the state level,” Lipinksi told the Newman Society.
“We should not be discriminating against any kind of institution based on their faith, on their religion and on their religious practices,” and getting rid of the Blaine Amendments would certainly help to ensure that, he said. “I love Catholic schools. I loved my experience, and I will do anything I can to help them out,” he later added.
Blaine Amendments, named for former Speaker of the House and U.S. Secretary of State James G. Blaine, are provisions currently found in 37 state constitutions prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds at “sectarian” schools. After Blaine’s failed attempt to amend the U.S. Constitution with the proposal in 1875, versions of the amendment were “added to state constitutions in order to enforce the nativist bigotry of the day” against Catholics, according to The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
The Newman Society has reported on recent court challenges involving state Blaine Amendments in Colorado, Missouri,Montana and Nevada. The U.S. Supreme Court recently decided to take up the Missouri case this year, and will make a decision on whether or not to hear the Colorado case on February 19. A favorable decision by the Court has the potential to invalidate all state Blaine Amendments.
Even if Blaine Amendments are not overturned by the Supreme Court this year, Catholic schools still deserve financial benefits and support due to the good they contribute to society and the money they save tax payers, Lipinski explained.
“We still have the argument to make that it is important and valuable to the country, to states, to tax payers, to allow money to go to parents to send their child to whatever school they want to go to,” Lipinksi told the Newman Society.
“Years ago, I remember seeing in front of a Catholic school a sign that says ‘this school saves tax payers x number of dollars,’” he recalled, questioning why more Catholic schools do not make this argument.
While the tax-saving argument has had little success in some parts of the country, Catholic and religious schools should not be too quick to abandon it, Lipinski said. “Again, it is a matter of choice for those who are sending their kids to whatever school they want to go to. It saves money for the public school, so it’s an argument that we continue to try and make.”
“I think it’s very important that we get that word out there so people realize it’s just another value of the Catholic schools to our country,” he said.
Lipinksi’s resolution in the House — introduced January 28 in recognition of National Catholic Schools week — highlights the “key role [Catholic schools] play in promoting and ensuring a brighter, stronger future for the Nation,” stating that Catholic schools produce “students strongly dedicated to their faith, values, families, and communities by providing an intellectually stimulating environment rich in spiritual, character, and moral development.”
“Catholic schools educate so many students across the nation and by all measures do a great job of that from an educational perspective,” Lipinski said. “They’re important for the country in that they’re providing an excellent education for so many students including a lot of students who are in more difficult situations and in lower socio-economic status situations. But from a Catholic perspective, in addition to that, I think it is very important that we have schools that are teaching kids about their faith.”
The congressman has introduced similar resolutions honoring Catholic schools for the past 10 years, and while it has bipartisan support, with 18 Republicans, 12 Democrats and one Independent as co-sponsors, the resolution has little chance of passing the House due to recent changes in how floor resolutions are considered.
Lipinski said the resolution provides an “opportunity for members of Congress to speak and recognize the contributions of Catholic schools to our country and hopefully educate more members of Congress and members of the public as to what Catholic schools contribute.”
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