Governor Perdue Proposes Faith-Based Constitutional Amendment
|Tuesday, October 7, 2003||
Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774
Legislation would align US and GA Constitution, allow funding to best providers
Atlanta - Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that he will submit legislation during the 2004 session of the General Assembly that would alter the controversial Blaine Amendment in Georgia’s Constitution. The constitutional change would allow faith-based social service providers to compete for state funds without facing discrimination.
“Georgia’s Constitution often unfairly prohibits the state from funding the best, most dedicated human services providers,” Perdue said. “Georgia’s neediest families and children deserve our commitment to removing this barrier to finding quality services.”
Georgia’s Blaine Amendment provides that “[n]o money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, cult, or religious denomination or of any sectarian institution.” This presents an even higher barrier to faith-based initiatives than the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Governor Perdue proposed adding to the beginning of the Blaine Amendment the following line: “except as permitted or required by the United States Constitution, as amended.”
“My proposed amendment will put the Georgia Constitution in step with the U.S. Constitution,” Perdue said. “The state should not discriminate against a private, voluntary organization, merely because it is faith-based.”
Governor Perdue’s proposal will be submitted by his floor leaders in the form of a resolution. The resolution would require a 2/3 vote in the House and Senate for passage. Upon passage, the amendment would appear on the November 2004 ballot and require a majority vote.
Attached is a fact sheet on the Blaine Amendment and Governor Perdue’s proposed change.
FACT SHEET: BLAINE AMENDMENT/ PERDUE PROPOSAL
- Since the late nineteenth century, the Georgia Constitution has contained a Blaine Amendment.
- The amendment is named for United States Senator James Blaine of Maine
- Senator Blaine capitalized on a national wave of anti-Roman Catholic bigotry to propose, and very nearly passed, an amendment to the United States Constitution in the 1850's prohibiting all forms of faith-based initiatives.
- The current iteration of Georgia's Blaine Amendment provides that "[n]o money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, cult, or religious denomination or of any sectarian institution." Ga. Const. art. I, § II, ¶ VII.
- Georgia's Blaine Amendment presents an even higher barrier to faith-based initiatives than the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
- Georgia Attorneys General and the courts have interpreted Georgia's Blaine Amendment to prohibit the following faith-based initiatives. In each case, the initiative likely would have been permissible under the First Amendment:
The provision of "Reading Challenge" grants to sectarian schools. 2000 Ga. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 00-5 (May 18, 2000).
A contract between the City of La Grange and the Salvation Army to "handle charitable cases for the city." Bennett v. City of La Grange, 153 Ga. 428, 112 S.E. 482 (1922).
"a county contracting with the Y.M.C.A. to provide recreational facilities and programs for the children of a particular county . . . ." [T]he Y.M.C.A. would be an inappropriate party to such a contract . . . since the Y.M.C.A. is probably a sectarian institution . . . ." 1969 Ga. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 69-136 (Mar. 25, 1969).
- There have been a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions stating that the U.S. Constitution allows for faith-based providers of human services.
- The text of what Governor Perdue proposes to add to the Georgia Constitution is very simple: "except as permitted or required by the United States Constitution, as amended."
- This revision puts the Georgia Constitution in step with the U.S. Constitution.
- This revision would not interfere with separation of church and state because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the U.S. Constitution allows for faith-based providers of human services.
- This revision would allow the state to fund the best human services providers.
- As required by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, taxpayer money will be used for secular purposes and not for religious purposes and activities. All state contracts can spell this out clearly.
- Revising the Blaine Amendment eliminates the threats of expensive lawsuits and removes the barriers to finding quality services for those in need.
- Revising the Blaine Amendment will expand the resource capacity upon which the state can turn to for social services.