- Europe’s Ancien Régime returns Jäger and David Adler, London Review of Books
- Monetary imperialism in French West Africa Ndongo Samba Sylla, Africa is a Country
- In defense of George W Bush Feaver & Inboden, War on the Rocks
- Justice Ginsburg on Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh Jonathan Adler, Volokh Conspiracy
- Clarence Thomas and abortion Corey Robin, Crooked Timber
- NYC’s war on Asian children Dennis Saffran, City Journal
- Race, racism, and the law in America Jacques Delacroix, NOL
- How often has the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law? Keith Wittington, Volokh Conspiracy
Another school funding case is knocking at the U.S. Supreme Court’s door. This case, Espinoza v. Walborn, hales from Montana, where the state’s fledgling school-choice program was killed moments after it left the crib. The Court now has a chance to revive it and land a major victory for educational choice across the country.
Montana’s first school-choice law, passed in 2015, took the form of a tax-credit scholarship program. If a taxpayer donated to an approved scholarship organization, she could claim up to $150 of the donation as a tax credit. The scholarship organizations then dished out scholarships to help parents afford to put their kids through private school.
Then the Montana Department of Revenue gutted it. The Department promulgated a rule that none of that scholarship money could go to religious private schools. This basically killed the program, since the vast majority of private schools in Montana–and in most states–are religious schools.
The Department claimed that the state constitution prohibited the scholarship dollars from going to religious schools because of the state ban on indirect public aid to religious schools. This is an absurd argument. The scholarship funds are privately donated dollars–they never touch a public coffer. The fact that someone can claim a tax credit hardly means that the donation becomes “public funds” because of diverted revenue. Such an argument, extended to its logical conclusion, would mean that all money is the government’s, and when it graciously declines to tax us, that extra money of ours is in fact part of the public fisc.
Nonetheless, the government prevailed at the Montana Supreme Court. In fact, the Court did the state one better–they just invalidated the whole tax-credit program, even for the few parents who might use a scholarship to send their kids to a secular school.
It’s a terrible blow to parents in Montana trying to find some genuine variety in education. But it also gives the Supreme Court a chance to right a wrong that has been festering in education policy for well over a century. The Supreme Court should hold that barring religious schools from accessing a neutral and generally available funding program violates the Free Exercise Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The portion of Montana’s state constitution that laid the tax-credit program in an early grave is known as a Blaine Amendment, named after 19th-century Congressman James Blaine. In 1875, Blaine proposed a federal constitutional amendment that would, among other things, prohibit states from funding “sectarian” schools with public money. Blaine’s federal amendment failed, but many states passed state-level amendments to the same effect, and Congress managed to make inclusion of such amendments a condition of statehood for new states entering the union.
The history is clear that these amendments are rooted in anti-Catholic bigotry. As the United States transitioned to a public school system, public schools had a distinctly Protestant flavor (often state-endorsed or even state-forced). Catholic migrants therefore began forming and attending private religious schools of their own. The backlash was fierce, and anti-Catholic sentiment often expressed itself in hostility to Catholic schools. James Blaine’s proposed amendment was a key manifestation of this bigotry.
And the bigotry lives on today. Ironically, however, now opponents of genuine choice in education have retrofitted Blaine Amendments as a partisan weapon to combat vouchers, tax credits, and education savings accounts. Montana’s law is only the most recent victim. If the Supreme Court doesn’t grant this case and strike down these state laws rooted in religious bigotry, it won’t be the last.
- How to democratize the US Supreme Court Henry Farrell, Crooked Timber
- How to democratize the US Supreme Court Samuel Moyn, Boston Review
- How to democratize the American political system Corey Robin, Jacobin
- The Hébertists, or Exaggerators, went to the guillotine in March of 1794 Wikipedia
- The Prophet Muhammad’s winged horse, Buraq Yasmine Seale, Public Domain Review
- Cool-headed deliberation is the job, after all Gina Schouten, Crooked Timber
- Kavanaugh’s confirmation won’t free all of Trump’s minions Ken White, Popehat
- How the Left enabled fascism David Winner, New Statesman
I listened to NPR this Sunday morning. (I make myself do it every day or nearly so.) The commentators sounded as if they believe that but for a small sliver of testimony lacking, it would have been definitely proven that Justice Kavanaugh was a rapist at seventeen. There was no hint of recognition that Ms Ford is a proven public liar. (I distinguish carefully between hazy, confused, or artificial memory on the one hand, and lies, which are deliberate conscious constructions, on the other.) Ms Ford lied about being claustrophobic and she lied about her fear of flying.
She should not have been believed at all because a person who tells untruths about yesterday cannot be treated seriously about what she said happened thirty-five years ago. These lies are treated by the media as insignificant inaccuracies and Justice’s Kavanaugh’s six previous FBI investigations as unimportant. We should have been spared the whole undignified circus except for the mendacity, the bad faith of the Dems, beginning with Sen. Feinstein. By the way, Feinstein used to be my model of an honest elected liberal. Finished; I don’t have such a model anymore.
We will soon know if I am wrong. As I have said before, if Ms Ford is telling the truth, she won’t let the outrage of Kavanaugh’s confirmation go unpunished. She will use the million-dollar war chest she was gifted, her notoriety, and her good team of lying attorneys to sue Mr Kavanaugh. I am told there is no statute of limitation for attempted rape where the imaginary event took place. If she does not sue, what are we supposed to think, that the rape wasn’t that bad after all?
I don’t rejoice much in the ultimate victory. Much damage has been done, including a degree of legitimation of the idea that the presumption of innocence is not actually central to civilization. And the rage of the fascist hordes we saw displayed in the Capitol is not going to dissipate. Those people are going away sincerely convinced that not only did a rapist get away with it (as usual!), but that he is going to be the deciding vote on the elimination of women “reproductive rights.” In fact, Roe and Wade is nowhere high on the Republican agenda. In fact, the Supreme Court does not reach out for cases; a relevant case would have to come up. In fact, in the unlikely case Roe and Wade were reversed, the issue would go back to the individual states where it belongs, constitutionally speaking.
It’s hard to tell whether those people are genuine imbeciles, or fooling themselves, or simply lying. Incidentally, note the Orwellian language we have come to accept: “Reproductive Rights” refers to the right to terminate a pregnancy surgically, like my driver’s license gives me the right to not drive! (In case you are wondering, I am for keeping abortion legal by virtue of the ethical principle that we must accept big evils to avoid even bigger evils.)
Of course, predictably, I will be accused of making light of gang rape. No, Ms, YOU are trivializing the violent crime of rape. Even if we took Ms Ford’s words for granted, at 15, after “one beer,” a 17-year old boy groped her through her clothes but fortunately she happened to be wearing a one piece bathing suit! In the meantime, thousands of women suffer real rape in war zones and American feminists keep shamefully silent. The probable idea here is that if you are a woman violently raped by soldiers who are black or brown skinned, it does not really count as rape.
I hope the next partial elections, a month away, turns from a referendum on Mr Trump to one on the Democratic Party’s new fascism.
Please, think of sharing this.