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Washington D.C., Feb 23, 2017 CNA/EWTN News.- Anti-Catholic state laws from the 19th century are today being used by secularists to fight public funding of all religious organizations, warned a religious freedom advocacy group.
State Blaine Amendment laws are utilized today “to counter religious organizations and religious individuals,” said Eric Baxter, senior attorney at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
“The First Amendment was set in place to ensure that religious beliefs and religious exercise could have an equal part in our public life and culture,” he told CNA.
These state laws, however, “are being used to thwart that, to say that somehow religion is like the ugly stepchild of the family of civil rights, and creates this idea that religion should be sidelined in public life.”
What was the original Blaine Amendment, and how were state laws modeled after it?
In the years following the Civil War, there was widespread suspicion and even open hostility toward Catholics in the U.S., especially toward immigrant Catholic populations from Europe.
Public schools at the time were largely Protestant, with no single Christian denomination in charge, and many Catholics attended parochial schools which were seen as “sectarian” by prominent public figures, explains historian John T. McGreevy in his book “Catholicism and American Freedom.”