When James Blaine introduced his ill-fated constitutional amendment in 1875, he probably never would have imagined the unintended consequences it would have over a hundred years later. Blaine wanted to prohibit the use of state funds at “sectarian” schools (a code word for Catholic parochial schools) in order to inhibit immigration. Since the public schools instilled a Protestant Christian view upon its students, public education was viewed as a way to stem the tide of Catholic influence.
While the amendment failed in Congress, supporters of the amendment pressed the issue at the state level, often making it a prerequisite for statehood. “Blaine amendment”-style language eventually found its way into dozens of state constitutions.
The Pioneer Institute has a released a new documentary film exploring the history of these amendments, and tracing the ordeals of four very different families who share the same struggle to send their children to schools that offer instruction rooted in religious faith, academic rigor, and a culture of respect.