MIDLAND, Mich. — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit heard oral arguments today in the case Hile v. State of Michigan. The case challenges the state’s discriminatory Blaine amendment, which prevents taxpayer dollars from being used on private schools, for almost any purpose.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy and Bursch Law are representing five families across Michigan who have saved funds through the Michigan Education Savings Program, a tax-exempt 529 plan, and wish to use those funds to help pay for K-12 private school tuition.
“All students, regardless of their families’ finances, should have access to whatever education opportunity best fits their unique needs,” said Molly Macek, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center. “Families across the country are able to use money they’ve saved through education savings accounts to help pay for tuition or other educational expenses. We hope the court will help Michigan families do the same and will open the door for future solutions as well.”
The Mackinac Center argues that the 1970 passage of the Blaine amendment was rooted in religious bigotry. Proponents of the ballot proposal, including the teachers union-led Council Against Parochiaid, framed the issue in religious terms, in an attempt to exploit anti-Catholic bias.
“For the first time in this case, the state of Michigan admitted passing a constitutional amendment with intent to discriminate on the basis of religion would be unconstitutional,” said Patrick Wright, vice president for legal affairs at the Mackinac Center. “Yet the state still claimed that Michigan’s Blaine amendment was not enacted with religious hostility, despite that when the Blaine amendment was passed, 98% of private schools were religious and the overwhelming majority of those were Catholic.”
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