A Tuesday Kansas City Star editorial on church-state separation actually made sense for a while until the editor’s allegiance to the public education establishment derailed it.
The unnamed editor began with a critique of the so-called Blaine Amendment to the Missouri State Constitution. Adopted in 1875 to thwart Catholic education, the amendment stated, “No money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion.” The Star editor described it as “a prohibition borne of anti-Catholic prejudice and unneeded today.”
The editor is hoping that the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday declares the amendment unconstitutional. The case before the Court stems from a 2012 decision to deny Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Mo. help from Missouri’s Scrap Tire Grant program. The church wanted shredded, recycled tires for its playground. Citing the amendment, the state declined.
In the church-state debate, a playground is one thing. A school is another. “We believe strongly in the separation of church and state,” the editor insists unconvincingly. “We would object if we saw evidence of any direct taxpayer subsidy of churches or religious schools.”
The Star is not so keen on indirect aid either. After asking that the amendment be scrapped, the editor cautions, “Legislators and voters would need to be vigilant to prevent abuse — parochial school vouchers are a particular concern.”
In classic media fashion, the editor takes a certain joy in imputing prejudice to the less enlightened, in this case the “anti-Catholic prejudice” of 1875 Missourians, but absolves herself of the same.
The Missourians of yore at least codified their biases. The Star would rather accomplish the exact same ends–the denial of public funds to Catholic schools, even indirectly–on a whimsical, ad-hoc basis.
“We’re confident, though, that lawmakers and voters know the difference between subsidizing religion,” the editorial concludes, “and helping kids avoid injury when they fall on a playground.”
And if they don’t know the difference, they can just consult with the Star and the teachers unions.