An Idaho lawmaker introduced a resolution this week that would amend the state’s constitution to remove a restriction on state funds going to private religious schools.
Idaho’s Constitution includes a Blaine Amendment — named after James Gillespie Blaine, a Maine lawmaker from the 1800s who wanted to restrict the flow of public funds to religious schools. The movement to add Blaine amendments to state constitutions across the country in the late 1800s was rooted in “anti-Catholic bigotry,” according to the Institute for Justice.
The resolution to strip the amendment was introduced on Monday by Sen. Brian Lenney, R-Nampa.
“The Blaine Amendment is a relic of religious bigotry that prohibits funds, state funds I should say, from flowing to sectarian organizations,” Lenney said, according to Boise Public Radio.
In order for the amendment to be adopted, both chambers would need to pass it by two-thirds, then would need to be agreed to by a majority of the state’s voters.
This year, Idaho lawmakers are considering a school choice bill, modeled after Arizona’s, that would allocate $20 million from the state’s budget to individual savings accounts, which could be used to pay for tuition at private schools.
The U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on the constitutionality of Blaine amendments in 2020. In a 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority that states “need not subsidize private education, but once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”
According to Ballotpedia, 37 states have Blaine amendments in their state constitutions. However, in Utah and South Carolina the amendments allow for public dollars to indirectly fund religious schools.