Press Release

Family fights bigoted law used to target son Compelling story reveals Blaine Amendment’s threat to students with disabilities

Media Contact

Melinda Skea 202-349-7224 media@becketlaw.org

Additional Information

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Wyatt was bullied, depressed, and failing in elementary school until a state scholarship changed his life. In a groundbreaking video, Wyatt’s family reveals how a law, which would be repealed if Oklahoma ballot measure State Question 790 passes on November 8, would have destroyed his chance for success.

The video, released today, captures the story of Wyatt, who has a hearing disability, and how Oklahoma’s Blaine Amendment would have taken away his state scholarship and pulled him from a school that met his special needs. In the video, the family tells how the Blaine Amendment endangers the education of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable, including hundreds of children with special needs. State Question 790, a ballot initiative approved by overwhelmingly bi-partisan majorities, will determine whether to repeal the discriminatory state law.

“I was constantly getting notes from his kindergarten school that he wasn’t listening in class. That’s when the incidents of bullying started, because he was different. He didn’t want to be different,” says Curtis, Wyatt’s father. “After he started on the Lindsay Nicole Henry Scholarship, we put him in Metro Christian Academy here in Tulsa. He was a totally different kid.”

The Blaine Amendment is a state law that secularist groups have used to prevent the government from partnering with organizations that are motivated by faith to provide valuable educational and social services to families. In 2011, radical secularists used Oklahoma’s Blaine Amendment to threaten the education of hundreds of children with special needs, all because some of these scholarships were being used for religious schools with advanced special-needs programs.

Blaine Amendments originated in the mid-1800s during a period of widespread anti-Catholic prejudice. Their purpose was to protect the majority’s control over the public schools against the growing population of Catholic immigrants. Now they are frequently used to keep religious organizations from partnering with the government to provide essential social services for people in need.

“Children with special needs deserve access to the best possible education, regardless of its source,” said Eric Baxter, senior counsel of Becket Law. “Everyone benefits when states work with faith-motivated organizations to help those in need.”

In Missouri, a Blaine Amendment was used to stop a religiously affiliated school from using generally available block grants for making playgrounds safer. In California, a lease held by the Boy Scouts of America was challenged because of Scouts’ “duty to God.” Florida’s Blaine Amendment has been used by militant atheists to sue one of the state’s most successful and cost-effective rehabilitation programs for ex-convicts because of its religious affiliation.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket  attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org  or 202-349-7224.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

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Becket Law is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions and has a 100% win-rate before the United States Supreme Court.For over 20 years, it has successfully defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians  (read more here).