Georgia high court to decide: Can discriminatory law end education program Old anti-Catholic law being used to keep funding from low-income children
Ryan Colby 202-349-7219 email@example.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Disgruntled Georgia taxpayers are trying to block scholarships that help low-income children receive a quality education. To do so, the taxpayers are using an anti-Catholic provision from the 19th century. In a brief filed today, Becket urged the Georgia Supreme Court to protect the children and the religious schools they attend from discrimination.
Georgia’s Scholarship Tax Credit Program helps Georgia schoolchildren—especially low-income students—get the education that best suits their needs. However, several disgruntled taxpayers sued to shut down the program because students on scholarships may choose to attend religious schools. Earlier this year, a lower court dismissed their case, but they appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court.
“Georgia’s program is helping low-income children. It would be a terrible mistake to use a bigoted law from the nineteenth century to hurt schoolchildren today,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket.
In 2015 the state of Georgia created the Scholarship Tax Credit Program aimed at helping low-income students receive a quality education. Under the program, Georgia taxpayers can donate to scholarship organizations and receive a credit on their state taxes. Because parents might use scholarships at religious schools, the disgruntled taxpayers want the entire program shut down. The taxpayers are using the state’s Blaine Amendment, a 19th century law rooted in anti-Catholic bigotry, to try and shut down the scholarship program.
Blaine Amendments were passed during a wave of anti-Catholic bigotry during the 1870’s and were designed to keep Catholic organizations—including orphanages, schools and charities — from having access to public funds. Public schools at the time used Protestant prayers, lessons and Bible readings. Today, those laws are being used against any school that is “too religious.” Both uses of the Blaine Amendment run afoul of the Constitution’s ban on religious discrimination.
“This law is a ghost from Georgia’s past. It shouldn’t be dredged up to haunt education in Georgia today,” said Windham.
A similar lawsuit in Oklahoma aimed at preventing special-needs kids from using a scholarship to help them attend a school—secular or religious—was defeated in February of this year (watch video).
For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more).