Another View: Anti-Catholic bias behind the decline of parochial schools

Article originally published on the Portland Press Herald.

Historical prejudice has denied public funding for church-run schools, even for secular programs.

Kathleen Parker’s appreciation of disappearing parochial schools (“COVID is killing Catholic schools,” June 16) misses the primary cause for their loss in places like Portland, which has lost three out of five schools in just the last few years.

When Catholics began immigrating in numbers into a largely Protestant country and sought funding for schools, they were denied by prejudice. Publicly funded church schools, which the Founding Fathers’ children attended, morphed into nominally Protestant “public” schools (my public school still had weekly “Chapel” in 1945). A constitutional amendment formalizing the parochial denial proposed by Republican Congressman James G. Blaine (later known as “the continental liar from the state of Maine”) failed, but most states adopted so-called “Blaine Amendments.”

World War II G.I. Bill education funding was a major exception; funding went to the veteran for use at any accredited school. Other First World countries recognize that the common good obliges funding secular subject at all accredited schools; religion is taught by church personnel in some, unfunded.

President Kennedy’s 1961 proposed federal aid for state schools occasioned explosive interfaith protest with a call for “a fair education for every child” tuition vouchers. Lost Democratic votes in 1962 halted that effort. A 1967 New York Constitutional Convention provided funding for all children’s education but was defeated at referendum.

Perhaps the current interest in exorcising our collective historic evils, from slavery and native genocide to white supremacy, will some day, if too late, end denial of funding to exercise what Pierce vs. Society Sisters (1927) recognized as parents’ right to choose the education of their children.