Mercedes Schneider offers a history lesson on the Blaine amendments found in most state constitutions, which require that public money go only to public schools. Some states–like Indiana–have found creative ways to interpret the Blaine amendment, by saying that the public money goes to parents, not to religious schools, but most states continue to interpret the amendments as they were written in the late 19th century.

What is a Blaine amendment and who was James G. Blaine? Schneider explains.

James G. Blaine voiced the strong anti-Catholic sentiment of his era, a sentiment shared by many other elected officials. He tried and failed to get an amendment to the U.S. Constitution barring the spending of public funds on religious schools. But most states incorporated his language, reserving public money for public schools.

Some have argued that the religious bias behind the amendments should invalidate them, but the fact that these amendments have been on the books for about 150 years makes a challenge seem improbable.

However, a challenge is in the wings. The wealthy, successful schools of Douglas County in Colorado (where a radical faction of the community won control of the school board) adopted a voucher plan; the Colorado Supreme Court said it violated the state constitution in a 4-3 decision. The district announced it would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Colorado Attorney General sides with the district. The possible addition of Neal Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court would strengthen the case for vouchers, because Gorsuch is known for his strong views defending religious freedom, which in this case might mean public support for religious schools.

The case is called Douglas County School District v. Taxpayers for Public Education. Thus far, it has not been certified for appeal. Keep your eyes on this one. It could be the one that deals a knock-out blow to separation of church and state. Or the Supreme Court might pass it by, for now.