Buck: Bye-bye, Blaine

July 6th, 2020 – The Denver Post

Resident Cheryl Johnson demonstrated her opposition to a possible school voucher program in Douglas County. The Douglas County School Board heard a mix of support and opposition to school vouchers during a meeting Tuesday night, December 7, 2010 in Castle Rock. Karl Gehring/The Denver Post

The United States Supreme Court delivered a resounding victory for freedom and against bigotry this week.

In Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the U.S. Supreme Court took a stand that Colorado’s Supreme Court refused to take five years ago, striking down a state constitutional amendment that runs contrary to our nation’s founding principles. In doing so, the justices offered a stinging rebuke to the atheists and teachers’ unions who continue to defend inherently bigoted Blaine Amendments.

As Justice Neil Gorsuch stated, the First Amendment “protects not just the right to be a religious person, holding beliefs inwardly and secretly; it also protects the right to act on these beliefs outwardly and publicly.”

However, for more than a century, 38 states, including Montana and Colorado, have maintained amendments to their state constitutions that prohibit “direct or indirect” use of state funds to aid any religiously affiliated institutions. These laws, which intended to harm parochial schools have been historically supported by the Ku Klux Klan and other bigoted organizations.

However, in 2015, progressive justices on Colorado’s Supreme Court ruled that religion should not leave the four walls of the church. The plurality sided with more than a century of anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant bias in Taxpayers for Public Education v. Douglas County, ruling that Douglas County’s Choice Scholarship Program violated Colorado’s Blaine Amendment because parents might choose to use state-funded education scholarships to send their children to a religiously affiliated school.

The Wall Street Journal opined in article titled Religious Bigotry in Colorado, “This week the Colorado Supreme Court dusted off a relic from the state’s anti-Catholic past to strike down a school voucher program. The charming result of this less-than-charitable secularism will be to deny poor children their right to a good education.”

In her dissenting opinion, former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Allison Eid noted that Colorado’s Blaine Amendment language “does not suggest, as the plurality believes, that government funds that are directed to a student but happen to have an incidental beneficial effect on certain schools are also forbidden.”

Justice Eid continued by stating, “the plurality cannot sweep the possibility of anti-Catholic bigotry under the plain language rug. The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that allegations of such animus must be considered, even where the ‘plain language’ does not invoke religion.”

It’s clear that in the progressive justices’ campaign to overthrow our founding principles, they ignored the plain text of Colorado’s Constitution and harmed those who they claim to care about most: children from less fortunate families.

Colorado parents depended on the Choice Scholarship Program to give their children the best opportunity to succeed. Families should have the freedom to make the best educational choice for their children, not be limited to the options that progressives, atheists, or teachers’ unions think are best.

It is time that Colorado revisits these unconstitutional laws that only serve to discriminate against people of faith.

I am thankful the U.S. Supreme Court chose to side with freedom and against bigotry. I only wish the progressives in Colorado would listen.

Ken Buck is a Republican from Windsor, representing Colorado’s Fourth Congressional District. He was first elected to Congress on November 4, 2014 and is currently serving his third term in the United States House of Representatives. He also serves as the Colorado GOP Chairman.