If you’ve been feeling whiplash with all the movement around school choice legal fights, you aren’t alone. The last two days, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled on two major school choice lawsuits in the past two days. Yesterday, SCOTUS ruled on Trinity Lutheran, as explained by the Denver Post ed board:
“The high court argued that Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources was wrong to prevent Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia from taking part in a program that uses shredded tires in playgrounds to protect against scrapes and bruises. The church operates a preschool and hoped to replace decidedly less-cushioning pea gravel. Its application for the program ranked near the top of a list of competitors, meaning it would have won on the merits, but officials reading their state’s constitution, and its inclusion of so-called Blaine Amendment language, disqualified the church.”
This overview was part of an editorial on why this case could mean good news for the Douglas County voucher case, which, this morning, SCOTUS sent back to the Colorado Supreme Court to consider given the ruling Trinity Lutheran case. In this case, SCOTUS is offering the Colorado Supreme Court a chance to get this case right. If it rules the right way – according to Trinity Lutheran – Douglas County voucher programs can proceed. If it doesn’t, the case may go back to SCOTUS to get another hearing.
Both cases are dependent on something called Blaine Amendments, something we’ve covered extensively. Blaine Amendments are a not-so-veiled attempt at religious bigotry, particularly against Catholics. From the Denver Post editorial:
“The language, a holdover from the 19th century, was meant to isolate Catholic schools during a time of heightened Protestant prejudice. Colorado’s version bars any funding that helps “support or sustain” any school “controlled by any church or sectarian denomination,” a high bar indeed. This despite the fact that when lawmakers inserted the Blaine language in 1876, it was common for other religious-based instruction to receive support in public schools.”
This ruling means that the Douglas County case is the best chance that our country has at righting this intolerable religious bigotry. Unfortunately, all four of Douglas County School Board’s pro-school choice are up for grabs this year. The teachers union, which has made this race a top priority as we first reported, has to take just one of these seats and this opportunity disappears. The stakes are high in Douglas County and national eyes are watching.