The Supreme Court Should Strike Down Missouri’s Ban on State Funds for Religious Institutions

June 21 2017

The Supreme Court will soon issue a verdict in Trinity Lutheran of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, a case in which a Missouri church qualified for a state grant to renovate its playground but was denied because the state’s constitution prohibits giving any funds to religious institutions. The clause in question is known as the Blaine amendment, after the 19th-century Republican congressman who proposed it; although his campaign to do so failed on the federal level, nearly two-thirds of all states adopted such amendments. Explaining the historical context, Philip Hamburger argues that the Supreme Court should strike down Blaine amendments everywhere:

For decades, states had used taxes to support public and private schools controlled by Protestants, with the goal not merely of Americanizing but of Protestantizing Catholic children. There were widespread fears that Catholics would balance this out by voting for politicians, mostly Democrats, who would direct tax funds to public or private schools dominated by Catholics.

Blaine’s amendment appealed to such fears by preventing tax money from coming under the control of any “religious sect.” Existing constitutional provisions against establishments of religion did not bar public spending on education from reaching schools with religious affiliations, and Blaine’s amendment did not propose to alter this arrangement except by excluding Catholics. The Catholic Church, being attached to its orthodoxies, had theological objections to cooperating theologically with Protestants, and it therefore could only operate schools that were distinctly Catholic or “sectarian.” In contrast, Protestants were willing to join with Protestants of other denominations in running schools.

Thus, when the Blaine Amendment stated that public money could not go to institutions belonging to any one “sect,” it effectively proposed to prevent money from reaching Catholic institutions—without cutting off funds for institutions shared by Protestant denominations. . . .

To be sure, states in many instances can reasonably choose not to fund churches. But when the Blaine amendments narrowly single out “sectarian” institutions, or when, as in Missouri, they categorically exclude all ecclesiastically-affiliated institutions, they reveal theologically-driven discrimination.

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More about: Catholic Church, Freedom of Religion, Politics & Current Affairs, Supreme Court

Iran Is Back on Israel’s Doorstep

Feb. 15 2019

On Monday, the IDF shelled Iranian-linked targets—most likely held by Hizballah—in the Quneitra province, which lies in the Syrian part of the Golan Heights. There can thus be little doubt that the Islamic Republic has positioned its proxies in deadly proximity to Israel’s borders. Yossi Yehoshua comments:

Hizballah is trying to entrench itself in Syria now that Bashar al-Assad has reclaimed the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, precisely as it did in 2014 and 2015, [before Syrian rebels retook the area]. This was when one of the terror organization’s more prominent members, Jihad Mughniyeh, was appointed by Hizballah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to be in charge of the Golan Heights area and of planning terror attacks against Israeli civilians. Mughniyeh was killed in a 2015 airstrike attributed to Israel. . . .

In addition, an increase in the number of incidents along the Syrian border was noted over the past two months, with the Israeli strikes in Syria . . . meant to signal to the enemy that it is best not cross any red lines. This is similar to the message Jerusalem conveyed to Iran when it [previously] attempted to entrench itself in [this part of] Syria and was pushed out of there after a series of Israeli airstrikes.

Unlike the situation of four years ago, Iran now has a real presence along the Syrian border, while Hizballah is working to resume its confrontations with Israel. And since the organization is up to its neck in domestic problems and thus cannot allow itself to face Israel on the Lebanese front, it finds Syria to be a more comfortable staging ground from which to take on the Jewish state.

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More about: Golan Heights, Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Syria