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Blaine Amendment (1875)


Representative James G. Blaine of Maine, with the support of President ulysses s. grant, introduced, in December 1875, a proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit state financial support of sectarian schools. The amendment was intended to prevent public support of the Roman Catholic schools which educated a large percentage of the children of European immigrants.

The first clause of the proposed amendment provided that "no State shall make any laws respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." This is an indication that Congress did not believe that the fourteenth amendment incorporated the religion clauses of the first amendment. (See incorporation doctrine.)

The second clause would have prohibited the use or control by a religious sect or denomination of any tax money or land devoted to public education. Together with the first clause this prohibition suggests the connection between support of church-related schools and establishment of religion recognized in twentieth-century Supreme Court opinions beginning with everson v. board of education (1947).

The Blaine Amendment was approved by the house of representatives, 180–7; but even a heavily amended version failed to carry two-thirds of the senate, and so the proposal died.

Dennis J. Mahoney

(see also: Government Aid to Religious Institutions.)

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