ATLANTA (ChurchMilitant.com) - A lawsuit is pending before the Georgia Supreme Court that invokes an anachronistic, 19th-century law, known as a Blaine amendment, that would prevent children from using the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program to attend Catholic religious schools.
The Blaine Amendment would halt tax credits that make the funding of Catholic schools possible, and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a non-profit, responded last month with an amicus brief. Forms of these Blaine amendments are still operative in 37 states today.
The Becket Fund filed its friend-of-the-court brief on December 22, 2016, and commented, "Georgia was not spared the effects ... of anti-Catholicism that spread through the rest of the nation. The Georgia Blaine Amendment was enacted as a result of that history." Founded as a colony by King George II at a time of religious strife in Europe, Georgia's colonial charter offered "liberty of conscience" and "free exercise of ... religion" to all, "except papists."
In 2008, Georgia established the GOAL Scholarship Program, Inc., which provides a tax-deductible return for citizens who donate to the private school of their choice. For the second year in a row, January 2016 saw the state hit its cap of $58 million in taxpayer donations for private school scholarships on the first day. The GOAL Scholarship especially makes the rigor and academic integrity of Catholic schools available to low-income families.
The lawsuit Gaddy v. Georgia is still pending before the Georgia Supreme Court and argues, "The state constitution prohibits the use of tax dollars to fund 'any church, sect, cult, or religious denomination.'" The state constitution adopted this language from the anti-Catholic Blaine Amendment.
In 2000, the U.S Supreme Court confirmed the Blaine Amendment's anti-Catholicism, saying, "Consideration of the [Blaine] amendment arose at a time of pervasive hostility to the Catholic Church and to Catholics in general, and it was an open secret that 'sectarian' was code for 'Catholic.'"
The recent lawsuit will especially hurt African American children, with 80 percent of Atlanta's African American children living in communities with high concentrations of poverty. It is no secret that Catholic schools outperform their public school counterparts, oftentimes scoring 20 points higher in educational aptitude tests.
The lawsuit is concerned around the question, "[D]oes allowing taxpayers who donate to qualifying scholarship organizations to receive a tax credit violate the separation of church and state when some of the scholarships are eventually used to attend religiously affiliated private schools?"
Catholicism teaches that government ought to be subservient to the goods and rights of the Church because government exists for the happiness of man.
Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Immortale Dei reaffirms this assertion, saying, "[T]he State, constituted as it is, is clearly bound to act up to the manifold and weighty duties linking it to God, by the public profession of religion. Nature and reason, which command every individual devoutly to worship God in holiness." Pope Leo continues "So, too, is it a sin for the State not to have care for religion as something beyond its scope, or as of no practical benefit."
Although not advocating the superiority of the Church, Diana Verm, legal counsel for the Becket Fund, told reporters the state should at least be "neutral towards religion."
Regardless of the lack of fidelity that pervade many Catholic schools in America, advocates of Catholic education, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, affirm that "Catholic education is very important; that's why we have our kids in Catholic schools ... teaching morals, values and natural law."
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