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Blaine Amendment was adopted to preserve protestant education

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,
This past June. Strafford County Superior Court Judge John Lewis ruled that the state's education tax credit program could not provide scholarships to students to attend religious schools, calling that portion of the program unconstitutional. I would like to challenge every parent who would like to send their child to a Christian school, every legislator, every judge, every person who is concerned about liberty, and applying our state constitution appropriately to reflect both its spirit and its letter to take a closer look at this case. The state should appeal this case to the N.H. Supreme court, and the ruling should be overturned.
Judge Lewis bases his decision on what is called the Blaine Amendment to Article 83 of our state Constitution. Article 83, established in 1783, is the one that encourages the state to cherish private and public education. The "Blaine" Amendment to this article, passed in 1877 says: "nevertheless, that no money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for the use of the schools of institutions of any religious sect or denomination." Quoting professor Charles Clark Judge Lewis says, "the amendments purpose was simply the protection of the public school system and prevention of diversion of funds away from it." and again "that a discernible major purpose of the No-Aid Clause, when enacted, was to promote and sustain public schools, which, were, over time losing their protestant orientation."
Couched in this vacuum of historical information, the question that needs to be answered is: is Judge Lewis' ruling based on merely constitutional grounds or is there some other bias shaping his decision?
The Blaine Amendment, an amendment that failed to pass as an amendment to the U.S. Constitution was taken to the states in various forms to amend various state constitutions. Though there was an element pushing for the purpose quoted by Judge Lewis above, to pass this amendment in N.H. it was necessary to frame the debate for it, in a manor in which the N.H. voters perceived that what they were protecting was what they considered to be the "nonsectarian" protestant nature of public education in N.H. They were presented that the maintaining of the protestant nature of education, which they believed was essential to maintaining a free society — this view had been prevalent since the founding of our republic. You can see its influence in Article VI of our state Constitution. George Washington exhorted the grandparents of these post Civil War N.H. residents on the importance of this type of education for our republic, in his farewell address, and the people of N.H. where still practicing and protecting it some 90 years latter — was being threatened by the growing Catholic community's desire to have their schools receive public funding. The amendment would not have passed in N.H. unless it was understood in this way. In their view the protestant form of education that was the moral essence of their schools was "nonsectarian". That a judge should now make a ruling that strains to find a constitutional imperative to deny the ideological, philosophical and spiritual descendants of these N.H. voters — for public education in N.H. has come to be anything but protestant and espouses atheistic values at its core — from receiving aid, provided freely to them by donating companies, to enable them to exercise their RIGHT OF CONSCIENCE, as magnified in our state constitution, is sinister indeed.

John Demakowski