GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) — A coalition of religious schools and independent colleges have filed a federal lawsuit calling for the courts to strike the “Blaine Amendment” from South Carolina’s state constitution. A spokesman for Governor Henry McMaster said the governor supports the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims the amendment discriminates against African Americans and religious groups by "unfairly withholding education funding for independent schools in the state."
The lawsuit was filed by by attorneys at the Liberty Justice Center on behalf of an entity representing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston, which oversees 33 K-12 schools throughout South Carolina, as well as the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, a nonprofit organization that represents 20 of the state’s independent universities and colleges, a news release states.
“This lawsuit seeks to achieve something that every American can stand behind: We’re fighting to strike down a century-old law that was enacted with the purpose of discriminating against our fellow citizens,” said Daniel Suhr, senior attorney for the Liberty Justice Center, in the news release. “The U.S. Constitution promises all of us equal treatment and protection under the law – regardless of our race, religion or creed. More than 100 years ago, when the South Carolina Constitution was enacted, a provision was enacted that is still being used to foster discrimination against religious and independent schools in the state. It is time for us to stand up and eradicate this bigotry so it cannot be used to deny educational resources to students in South Carolina.”
A news release states that the Blaine Amendment was debated in the US Congress and rejected, but that South Carolina adopted the amendment in 1895 "in order to suppress the education of newly freed slaves and to enable discrimination against Catholic immigrants," a news release from the Liberty Justice Center states.
“This appeal to our state’s courts is not only to, at long last, expunge the anti-Catholic and racist sentiment that still haunts our past," added the Most Rev. Robert E. Guglielmone, Bishop of Charleston, in the release. "It is about creating a more inclusive, uplifting future for parents and children who seek an education that best fits their values and needs of their students. Many families have been significantly hurt by the COVID pandemic and they should not be denied financial assistance based on where they desire to send their children to school.”
A spokesman for Gov. Henry McMaster said supports the lawsuit. McMaster fought to issue SAFE Grants funding as scholarships to students attending private schools during the pandemic, and the state Supreme Court rejected that plan because the justices found that the proposed scholarships violated the state's constitution. Below is the statement issued by Brian Symmes, McMaster's Communications Director:
Governor McMaster believes that private, parochial and independent schools provide many working or low-income parents the option to choose the type of education environment and instruction that best suits their child’s unique needs. Even in the best of economies, many of these parents struggle to scrape together enough money to pay their child’s tuition.
Nobody fought the SAFE grants lawsuit more vigorously than the governor did, and he still believes it was incorrectly decided. Every step of the way, the governor warned that the lawsuit could have far-reaching consequences and unnecessarily prevent these schools and parents from accessing emergency federal funds.
FOX Carolina reached out to the The South Carolina Education Association for comment on the lawsuit. A spokesperson said the SCEA did not wish to comment at this time.
The South Carolina Attorney General's Office and the South Carolina Department of Administration also declined comment.
READ THE LAWSUIT: