Acton Institute Powerblog

Commentary: The court case that could end 150 years of anti-Catholic law

This week’s Acton Commentary focuses on a Supreme Court case that could strike down an eighteenth-century statute, borne of anti-Catholic animus, that now locks poor children in underperforming schools. A clear understanding of economics and solid Supreme Court precedent could sweep this relic of anti-Catholic discrimination, known as the Blaine amendment, into the past.

After tracing America’s deep and pervasive history of anti-Catholic bigotry, the Commentary moves on to the present case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue:

In 2015, the Montana legislature gave a dollar-for-dollar tax deduction of up to $150 to anyone who donated to a private, nonprofit scholarship fund for needy schoolchildren. The independently administered scholarship let parents send their children to any private school, religious or secular. But state officials told Kendra Espinoza not to apply, because she sends her two children to a Christian school in Kalispell.

“There is reason to believe the Supreme Court will overturn [the Montana Supreme Court’s] ruling, and more reason people of faith should hope it does,” the essay continues. Examples of Supreme Court precedents could be multiplied beyond those in the article, such as the ruling in 1925’s Pierce v. Society of Sisters, which states:

The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.

The Acton Commentary goes on to note the way state-sponsored bigotry backfires, the difference between a tax deduction and a subsidy, and the preeminence of parental rights.

Read the full commentary here.

(Photo credit: Public domain.)

(H/T: Kevin Schmiesing for the Pierce ruling.)

Rev. Ben Johnson

Rev. Ben Johnson is Executive Editor of the Acton Institute's flagship journal Religion & Liberty and edits its transatlantic website.