Fact Sheet: South Carolina's Blaine Amendment - Liberty Justice Center

Fact Sheet: South Carolina’s Blaine Amendment

What is the so-called “Blaine Amendment”?

South Carolina’s current Blaine Amendment is found in Section 4 of the State Constitution’s article on education. It prohibits direct taxpayer aid to independent and religious schools. The South Carolina Supreme Court has interpreted this provision to also prohibit publicly-funded student scholarships paid to schools.

Why is that provision called a “Blaine Amendment”?

South Carolina’s Blaine Amendment is one of 35 such provisions adopted by states across the country. They were all first drafted in the late 1800s as part of a wave of anti-Catholic bigotry. As America experienced a surge of Catholic immigrants from Ireland, Italy and other European nations, a nasty anti-immigrant backlash led politicians nationwide to adopt provisions barring public funds from going to Catholic schools and other ministries that helped immigrants.

Who is James G. Blaine?

James G. Blaine was a Republican congressman from Maine who sponsored the original proposed Blaine Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. When that proposal failed by the narrowest of margins in the U.S. Senate, the banner was taken up in states — including South Carolina — to add similar provisions to their state constitutions.

How did the Blaine Amendment come to South Carolina?

South Carolina’s Blaine Amendment was first birthed in the Constitution of 1895. While the United States has had the same federal constitution since 1787, the State of South Carolina has gone through a number of constitutional revisions. Immediately after the Civil War, the State adopted the Reconstruction Constitution of 1868. When the federal troops left and Reconstruction ended, Benjamin Tillman and other racialists took power. Tillman convened a new constitutional convention, which adopted the thoroughly racist Constitution of 1895. This constitution included South Carolina’s original Blaine Amendment to prohibit state funds to Catholic institutions, and schools and universities founded by northern missionaries to serve freed slaves.

Didn’t South Carolina adopt a revised constitutional article on education in the 1970s?

Yes, the West Committee (named for then-Lt. Gov. John West) met in the 1960s to propose numerous changes to the 1895 Constitution, including a revision of the education article. This new education article was adopted by the people in 1972. Unfortunately, this new article retained the ban on direct aid to independent and religious schools, a decision made in the context of lingering racism and anti-Catholicism.