Behind the Headline: When America Hated Catholics

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When America Hated Catholics
Politico | 9/23/15

Behind the Headline
Heading for a Fall
Education Next| Winter 2016

While Pope Francis is enjoying a warm welcome from politicians of all faiths during his visit to the United States, Josh Zeitz of Politico takes a look back at a time when anti-Catholic emotions were strong here.

In the late 19th century, an era of mass immigration, anti-Catholicism often found expression around the issue of education, Zeitz notes.  “Rightly fearing that native Protestants wished to inject public schools with an evangelical and sectarian spirit, Catholics created a sweeping, parallel system.” In response, more than 30 states passed “Blaine Amendments” which prohibited the use of any state funds to support these Catholic schools.

Blaine Amendments remain on the books in many states and opponents of school vouchers in some states have mounted legal challenges to the vouchers on Blaine Amendment grounds. This summer, the Colorado Supreme Court struck down a school voucher program in Douglas County on the basis of the state’s Blaine Amendment.

In an article in the new issue of Education Next, Joshua Dunn examines the Colorado ruling and explains that because the Blaine Amendment comes from a time of widespread anti-Catholic prejudice, the U.S. Supreme Court could very well strike down the ruling on the grounds that the Blaine Amendment violates the free exercise clause.

UPDATE: Douglas County, Colorado has appealed the state court ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, it was announced this morning (September 25, 2015).

– Education Next

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