SC private schools urge judge to help move state from ‘mistakes of its past’ – The Post and Courier

May 3, 2021

In Bishop of Charleston v. Adams, the Liberty Justice Center seeks to prevent South Carolina officials from using a long-standing discriminatory law to deny independent and religious schools access to federal COVID relief funds.

The following article by Rickey Dennis appeared on May 3, 2021 on The Post and Courier.

Private schools suing the state for access to millions of dollars in public funds urged a federal judge to help South Carolina move beyond the “mistakes of its past” by forcing the distribution of the money to dozens of independent schools.

U.S. District Judge Bruce Hendricks heard arguments May 3 in Charleston from the religious institutions requesting a preliminary injunction to bypass the “Blaine Amendment,” which bans private schools from receiving public funds.

The amendment, which traces back to 1895, is preventing historically Black colleges and universities and Catholic schools from receiving “fair, equitable access” to COVID-19 emergency relief funding, said Daniel Suhr, attorney for the plaintiffs.

Suhr, an attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based Liberty Justice Center, claims the amendment is racist.

During the hearing, Suhr said he realized it’s “no small thing” to ask the court to remove an amendment from the state constitution.

“South Carolina has come a long way since 1895,” Suhr said. “But though the state has come a long way, its past is with us still.”

The Liberty Justice Center recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston, which oversees 33 schools with over 7,000 students across South Carolina, and the S.C. Independent Colleges and Universities nonprofit group that represents 20 schools.

The court’s intervention is urgent because religious and historically Black schools stand to lose out on up to $34 million in federal funds in COVID-19 relief aid, set aside for the schools by the governor, if the court doesn’t act by May 11, which is the federal deadline for allocation of the money, attorneys wrote in their request for the preliminary injunction.

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