COLUMBIA, S.C. (February 28, 2023) — Today the S.C. House of Representatives passed legislation (H. 3591) sponsored by Speaker Murrell Smith (R-Sumter) calling for a state referendum on striking the “Blaine Amendment” from the state constitution.
The Blaine Amendment states, “No money shall be paid from public funds nor shall the credit of the State or any of its political subdivisions be used for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.”
The provision dates back to the drafting of the South Carolina Constitution in 1895 and was inserted by none other than Ben “Pitchfork” Tillman in part to thwart the growth of private African American institutions because they were providing the kind of college education of which he did not consider African Americans worthy.
The Blaine Amendment has had unintended consequences for private colleges and universities, including denying them access to federal funding and prohibiting them from entering contracts with state and local governments for the public’s benefit.
“As I said in my testimony before the Constitutional Laws Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee (The testimony transcript and video are available for reference.), the Blaine Amendment is a racist and anti-religious relic in our state’s constitution. We thank Speaker Smith for his leadership in championing this bill.
The debate on the bill today demonstrated there is a legitimate difference of opinion regarding the application of state and local resources. But as I stated before, those who stand behind the Blaine Amendment to bolster their case are standing next to the ghost of Ben “Pitchfork” Tillman.
This is clearly an important public policy decision. So why not let the public decide? The legislation does not strike the Blaine Amendment but directs a state referendum be put before the voters to settle the matter.
SCICU strongly believes there’s no place for the racism and anti-religious sentiment that inspired the Blaine Amendment to remain in our state’s constitution, and that state and local governments should have the freedom to engage who they believe will best serve the public benefit. We are confident that, when given the chance, voters will agree.”